Korngold, Schmidt - Music For Strings & Piano Left Hand / Fleisher

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Paul Wittgenstein's many commissions for piano left-hand (he lost his right arm during the First World War) significantly enriched the twentiethcentury's musical repertoire, and Sony's superb CD bears witness to two of the finest. Both date from the inter-war years, Korngold's Suite being a product of 1930 and Schmidt's Quintet - one of three that he composed for Wittgenstein - from 1926. It is of course easy, with hindsight, to appreciate the abundant virtues of both pieces, even though back in the 1930s Nazi ideology drew a spurious racial barrier between Korngold's supposed 'degeneracy' and Schmidt's 'healthy' inheritance of the Brahms-Reger tradition.

This ludicrous mock-crisis is tellingly exemplified by listening first to Korngold's sensual "Lied" (the Suite's fourth movement), the musical equivalent of death by chocolate, then to the homely tones - no less lovely in their way - of Schmidt's Adagio. Both tug insistently at the heart-strings, but they are very different. Korngold also gives us a purple-hued waltz and a pungent "Groteske" with a buttermilk centre. His is a music ripe to bursting point, though it is also wickedly subtle and immensely clever. Schmidt's first movement has a second set that could easily have strayed from an undiscovered Brahms sextet, with piano writing that is unexpectedly prophetic of Bartók's Third Concerto. His third movement opens like a Brahms piano miniature, and continues in the manner of Reger. Both works feature delightful finales, Korngold's being a set of variations on a tender theme.

Sony's stellar line-up gives Schmidt's Quintet the outing of its life: even now, I can't wait to replay the two middle movements. Fleisher's beautifully graded playing is granted affectionate support from Silverstein and his colleagues, supple but sweet-centred and very well balanced.

– Gramophone [9/1998]

Product Description:

  • Release Date: June 22, 2010

  • Catalog Number: SONY48253

  • UPC: 074644825329

  • Label: Sony

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Franz Schmidt

  • Performer: Jaime Laredo, Joel Smirnoff, Joseph Silverstein, Leon Fleisher, Michael Tree, Yo-Yo Ma