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Describing his experience as a youth in Hungary hearing Bruno Walter play and conduct a Mozart concerto, the Hungarian pianist, Andor Foldes, stated that all in attendance ‘were happy, so obviously happy, in the service of a higher power – Mozart’s spirit’. His own fidelity to the spirit as well as the letter of music from the Classical era was happily captured on record over the best part of two decades by Deutsche Grammophon.

The pianist’s ‘craftsman-like approach’ to Beethoven was warmly appreciated in Gramophone (March 2018) by Rob Cowan, reviewing two Eloquence albums of sonatas and variations (482 7053 & 482 5854), who noted how Foldes seems ‘absolutely at home in the recording studio … His playing is a pleasure to listen to on its own terms, rather like enjoying the precise workings of a meticulously engineered watch movement.’

These qualities of precision and transparency are, it could be argued, still more germane to the performance of Mozart. The earliest recording presented in this collection is the 1954 account of the G major Concerto KV 453 which reveals to perfection Foldes’s singing sonority and seamless legato; his crystalline trills, fluid arpeggios and deftly-defined finger-work in the first movement are particularly beguiling. His 1963 reading of the Concerto No. 25 in C major KV 503 features beautifully burnished lines and attentive balance between melodic and harmonic elements, the interplay between orchestra and soloist being remarkably cohesive.

Mark Ainley’s booklet essay documents a rehearsal where Foldes encouraged his musicians to ‘put a little smile on the face of the music’ in the Concerto KV 467, surely the sunniest and most untroubled of the mature concertos or so it seems in this 1957 recording. In all the concertos he receives richly textured support from the Berliner Philharmoniker who are also on hand for the substantial ‘bonus’ of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, making this album an essential complement to the Eloquence reissue of the composer’s First and Fifth Concertos (482 7048).

‘The solo playing, the singing and the orchestral playing are all in the highest degree sensitive, and they are all given every chance by a first-class recording. In particular, the piano comes off well.’ Gramophone, April 1956 (Beethoven)

‘Among the better recordings of these masterworks … [Foldes] is favoured with excellent orchestral support and generally first-rate recording.’ High Fidelity, July 1958 (Concertos K453, K467)

CD 1
Concerto No. 10 in E flat major for Two Pianos & Orchestra, KV 365
Carl Seemann, piano I
Andor Foldes, piano II
Berliner Philharmoniker
Fritz Lehmann

Piano Concerto No. 15 in B flat major, KV 450*
Berliner Philharmoniker
Leopold Ludwig

Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, KV 467*
Berliner Philharmoniker
Paul Schmitz

CD 2
Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, KV 453*
Berliner Philharmoniker
Fritz Lehmann

Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, KV 503*
Berliner Philharmoniker
Leopold Ludwig

Fantasia in C minor for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra, Op. 80*
RIAS Kammerchor
Berliner Motettenchor
Berliner Philharmoniker
Fritz Lehmann

Andor Foldes, piano

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