The EMI 40-CD Alfred Cortot box is in hand!

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Lance
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The EMI 40-CD Alfred Cortot box is in hand!

Post by Lance » Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:48 pm

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Front and back covers of boxed set EMI 04907, 40 CDs, ADD

The set duplicates all the other EMI issues I have on CD/LP that are contained in this boxed set AND the preponderance of other Cortot commercially issued material on Victor 78s or EMI and it's subsidiary labels and independent CDs. The set does not pretend to contain every recording made by Cortot. This Annivesary Edition gives a retrospective from year 1919 to 1959 and includes some of the Beethoven sontatas the pianist made during the stereo years when his pianism was not really up to his usual standards. (He uses lovely sounding Pleyel pianos in a lot of this material, including the late Beethoven sonatas issued herein.) Also, you will hear Cortot as a conductor in all six Bach Brandenburg Concertos and other symphonic works, and, for the umpeenth time, we get all the recordings made with Casals and Thibaud.

The booklet will be of special interest, as written by François Anselmini as translated by Yehuda Shapiro. It contains much information about Cortot's apparent Nazi collaborations. I quote this from the booket:

"Like his friend Furtwängler, [Cortot] thought that art and artists were above political contingencies and tried to maintain that position admidst the grave antagonism of the wartime period. Then there is the matter of Cortot's supposed anti-Semitism. In order to occupy his official posts, he did, indeed, like every functionary, declare that he did not belong to the 'Jewish race,' but there is no evidence that he was actively anti-Semitic. Whilst he appears to have remained indifferent to the fates of certain of his pupils, such as Clara Haskil and Vlado Perlemuter, and of colleagues such as Lazare-Lévy, who came to ask for help for his son, other musicians such as Marya Freund and Manuel Rosenthal bear witness to his support. There is also a story that he presided over a jury tasked with removing the Jewish members of the Orchestre Nataional, but these so-called 'Cortot auditions' in May 1941 had a purely musical focus; it was not until later that Jews and foreigners were excluded from the orchestra, and Cortot had no involvement in the process."

The booklet is full of a unique array of photographs with people such as Vincent d'Indy, Eugene Ysaÿe, Gabriel Fauré, Georges Enesco, Maggie Teyte, Jacques Thibaud, Edwin Fischer (never saw that one before!), and György Cziffra. The older Cortot got, the very much older he looked, especially with his spectacles. He begins to look very frail at the end of his life, as all of us may look too.

In any event, it is the MUSIC that is important here with this release from EMI, with two or three versions of some pieces, such as the Chopin Preludes, Etudes, Sonatas, the Schumann Concerto, all recorded acoustically or electrically during the 78-rpm era, and into tape, mono and finally stereo even though the latter (Beethoven sonatas) didn't well represent the pianist's best art. I haven't necessarily been bowled over by Cortot the conductor since there were so many other conductors from this period who knew (and performed) this music very well. Still, interesting to have.

The set is priced well, between $2-$3/USD per disc, which is a huge bargain for such a world-class artist of repute of material remastered and presented by the people who recorded it (HMV, also in collaboration with Victor in the USA). Some items herein, are also attributed to EMI-France and EMI-Toshiba (Japan).

No, I wouldn't want to be without this set being the piano aficionado that I am. ♫
Lance G. Hill
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Donald Isler
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Re: The EMI 40-CD Alfred Cortot box is in hand!

Post by Donald Isler » Fri Dec 14, 2012 11:51 pm

There are people who are convinced that not all of it is really Cortot, especially a couple of Mazurkas. Haven't heard them myself, though.
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Re: The EMI 40-CD Alfred Cortot box is in hand!

Post by Lance » Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:04 am

Donald, a very quick scan of the box contents shows two Chopin Mazurkas:

a} Mazurka No. 2 in c-sharp minor, Op. 6/2
b} Mazurka No. 41 in c-sharp minor, Op. 63/3

All that the booklet contains about these is:

"Recorded in England, 1950," which certainly causes one to raise an eyebrow since EMI's (HMV & Columbia) carefully kept paper records are usually precise in this regard. We know nothing more than they were made in 1950. Near as I can quickly find, Cortot did not record other mazurkas so a "stylistic" decision could be made about the 1950 mazurkas in contrast to other recordings he made of this type of Chopin piece. I have not yet heard these mazurkas, but will undoubtedly know if this is Cortot or not based on an understanding of his unique sound and touch at the piano, regardless of the piano make: Pleyel or Steinway.

I find it curious, nonetheless, that EMI would choose to place this material in a compendium of this nature especially if there is some question as to the authenticity of the pianist!
Donald Isler wrote:There are people who are convinced that not all of it is really Cortot, especially a couple of Mazurkas. Haven't heard them myself, though.
Lance G. Hill
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Re: The EMI 40-CD Alfred Cortot box is in hand!

Post by Donald Isler » Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:40 am

Do you know Allan Evans or James Irsay (both of whom are on Facebook)? They are convinced that it's not Cortot playing the Mazurkas. I'm just passing on what I read. But they know a lot, so I would not just dismiss their conclusions out of hand.
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Re: The EMI 40-CD Alfred Cortot box is in hand!

Post by John F » Sat Dec 15, 2012 5:01 am

Cortot's conducting is certainly a point of interest - as a young man he led the first French performance of "Götterdämmerung" (in concert) and also conducted "Tristan und Isolde," and just getting a French orchestra through these massive operas must have been quite a feat. This was much earlier than Cortot's first recordings so I'm just guessing, but I imagine he might have been an idiomatic and persuasive Wagnerian.

The Brandenburg Concertos are an entirely different matter, of course. My parents had Cortot's recording of #1 on 78s, so I picked up the set of 6 out of nostalgia as well as curiosity when they first came out on CD. The orchestra is from the Ecole Normale de Musique, which he had founded not long before, and it is competent without any special distinction. The soloists in #5 include Cortot himself (on piano, of course) and Jacques Thibaud; those in the other concertos are OK but nothing special. The thing is, Cortot's way with this music is not just unconventional but at times eccentric, full of idiosyncratic nuances such as the fussy dynamic shadings he imposes where Bach specified none at all and his grinding almost to a halt at the end of every opening ritornello. What he was thinking, I've no idea, and he doesn't do this in any other music I've heard him play.



For me, the most interesting few minutes of these recordings is the cadenza in the first movement of #5, in which Cortot's shifting dynamic balance among the melodic line, bass, and treble figuration, impossible on a harpsichord, is striking and maybe revelatory - but of course that's not his conducting but his pianism.
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Re: The EMI 40-CD Alfred Cortot box is in hand!

Post by Lance » Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:54 pm

Yes, certainly know Evans. We have had correspondence some time ago. I would certainly trust his judgment in these matters. I am not familiar with Irsay but probably should be.
Donald Isler wrote:Do you know Allan Evans or James Irsay (both of whom are on Facebook)? They are convinced that it's not Cortot playing the Mazurkas. I'm just passing on what I read. But they know a lot, so I would not just dismiss their conclusions out of hand.
Lance G. Hill
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______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Re: The EMI 40-CD Alfred Cortot box is in hand!

Post by Modernistfan » Sat Dec 15, 2012 3:05 pm

That booklet note about Cortot's wartime activities is, at the very least, disengenuous. Signing the declaration that he was "not a member of the 'Jewish race'" (whatever that is) was perhaps excusable (even Simone de Beauvoir signed such a declaration), but that was the least of it. The note does not mention that he was president of the Comité Professionel de la Musique in the Vichy regime and that he played frequently in Germany during the war. He also performed at the opening of an exhibition of works of Hitler's favored sculptor, Arno Breker, in Paris in 1942. After the war, he was briefly arrested, and, despite the increasingly prevalent French attitude of "live and let live" when it came to collabos, he was banned from playing in public for one year; when he reemerged, in January 1947, he was booed off the stage (see the book "And the Show Went on: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris" by Alan Riding). The book does not provide any evidence that he helped Manuel Rosenthal, who had to remain in hiding, although he was helped by a musical member of the Resistance, conductor Roger Désormière. (Rosenthal, although born Jewish, had long since converted to Catholicism, but that didn't matter to the Nazis.)

Regarding Marya Freund, excerpts from her diary published after the war as an appendix to the memoirs of her son, Doda Conrad, have revealed that after her arrest and imprisonment in the notorious Drancy prison, although Cortot managed to have her transferred to the Rothschild Hospice, he refused to seek her release. She eventually escaped from the Rothschild Hospice and managed to remain in hiding until the end of the Occupation.

Needless to say, I have not the slightest interest in buying a 40-CD(!!) set of recordings by that overrated note-dropper, even not considering his disreputable activities during the war. Also, I do not care whether he played that set of Chopin Mazurkas or if Donald Duck played them. I have better uses for my credit cards and shelf space.
Last edited by Modernistfan on Wed Dec 19, 2012 12:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The EMI 40-CD Alfred Cortot box is in hand!

Post by Chalkperson » Sun Dec 16, 2012 2:25 am

How many CD's are dedicated to all his wrong notes, my guess is three... :mrgreen:
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Re: The EMI 40-CD Alfred Cortot box is in hand!

Post by Lance » Sun Dec 16, 2012 10:55 am

Understand your feelings completely. I think about these Nazi connections when I listen to Cortot wondering how such a great musical mind could be so distorted, but yet continue to appreciate the music-making. True, he was a note-dropper, but he had the ability to create a gorgeous sound. He will pay the price somewhere for what he did not do for humanity when he could have.
Modernistfan wrote:That booklet note about Cortot's wartime activities is, at the very least, disengenuous. Signing the declaration that he was "not a member of the 'Jewish race'" (whatever that is) was perhaps excusable (even Simone de Beauvoir signed such a declaration), but that was the least of it. The note does not mention that he was president of the Comité Professionel de la Musique in the Vichy regime and that he played frequently in Germany during the war. He also performed at the opening of an exhibition of works of Hitler's favored sculptor, Arno Breker, in Paris in 1942. After the war, he was briefly arrested, and, despite the increasingly prevalent French attitude of "live and let live" when it came to collabos, he was banned from playing in public for one year; when he reemerged, in January 1947, he was booed off the stage (see the book "And the Show Went on: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris" by Alan Riding). The book does not provide any evidence that he helped Manuel Rosenthal, who had to remain in hiding, although he was helped by a musical member of the Resistance, conductor Roger Désormière. (Rosenthal, although born Jewish, had long since converted to Catholicism, but that didn't matter to the Nazis.)

Regarding Manya Freund, excerpts from her diary published after the war as an appendix to the memoirs of her son, Doda Conrad, have revealed that after her arrest and imprisonment in the notorious Drancy prison, although Cortot managed to have her transferred to the Rothschild Hospice, he refused to seek her release. She eventually escaped from the Rothschild Hospice and managed to remain in hiding until the end of the Occupation.

Needless to say, I have not the slightest interest in buying a 40-CD(!!) set of recordings by that overrated note-dropper, even not considering his disreputable activities during the war. Also, I do not care whether he played that set of Chopin Mazurkas or if Donald Duck played them. I have better uses for my credit cards and shelf space.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Lance
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Re: The EMI 40-CD Alfred Cortot box is in hand!

Post by Lance » Wed Feb 06, 2013 2:36 am

Has anyone else acquired this big Cortot edition? Just wondering what you think of it thus far. I'm delighted to have it, actually as it contains most everything that was noteworthy to his career. I'm speaking of the artist strictly as a pianist and musician, not for his unworthy and detested political views.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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gperkins151
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Re: The EMI 40-CD Alfred Cortot box is in hand!

Post by gperkins151 » Fri Feb 08, 2013 7:23 am

Lance wrote:Has anyone else acquired this big Cortot edition? Just wondering what you think of it thus far. I'm delighted to have it, actually as it contains most everything that was noteworthy to his career. I'm speaking of the artist strictly as a pianist and musician, not for his unworthy and detested political views.
I have it as well, Lance and have now heard it all. I was delightfully surprised to see that the mastering was superbly done, without a lot of noise reduction. I am a huge fan of Cortot's pianism, so I am very happy to have this set. The Beethoven (and some of the other late recordings) were obviously done when he was way past his prime, but the rest is a delight. Lots of great photos in the booklet as well.
George

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Re: The EMI 40-CD Alfred Cortot box is in hand!

Post by Lance » Fri Feb 08, 2013 6:06 pm

Thanks for the response, George. I, too, recognize something very special in the man's art as a pianist of unique qualities, most of which were captured during the days of his 78s rather than the "taped" recordings made before his death.
gperkins151 wrote:
Lance wrote:Has anyone else acquired this big Cortot edition? Just wondering what you think of it thus far. I'm delighted to have it, actually as it contains most everything that was noteworthy to his career. I'm speaking of the artist strictly as a pianist and musician, not for his unworthy and detested political views.
I have it as well, Lance and have now heard it all. I was delightfully surprised to see that the mastering was superbly done, without a lot of noise reduction. I am a huge fan of Cortot's pianism, so I am very happy to have this set. The Beethoven (and some of the other late recordings) were obviously done when he was way past his prime, but the rest is a delight. Lots of great photos in the booklet as well.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

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