Tuesday, February 16, 2010

First Recording: Bartok 3rd Piano Concerto / Ormandy, Sandor

The above picture of the 78 set notwithstanding, the present offering comes from an LP I have of the recording (ML 4239), where it is coupled with the Miakowsky 21st symphony, which I have chosen not to post. I did own the 78 set at one point, and still have a tape from it, but the discs were in very bad shape. The pristine later LP transfer that I own is "electronically re-recorded to simulate stereo", and while not bad for that sort of thing, I preferred to use the earlier monaural record which simply sounded -- well -- less fake.

Sandor was a lifetime champion of Bartok's music, as was Ormandy, who recorded convincing performances of the Miraculous Mandarin, Dance Suite, and other works. This is the first recording of the 3rd Piano Concerto, and while it has a sense of being "read" rather than interpreted, that may well be a good thing: There is much to recommend it. If the slow movement lacks some of the shimmering mysticism of many subsequent performances, it seems to me earthier, closer to the insect calls and other night sounds that inspired this classic Bartokian nocturne. Sandor, who studied with Bartok and was his friend, knows this music in his bones, and Ormandy (also Hungarian, we must remember) is, as always, superb in concerto work (and not just). The Philadelphia orchestra plays no less magically than it usually does, not just the always praised strings, but the winds too; there is not a section in the ensemble that is not superb. And the performance can be strongly recommended for much more than its historical significance as the first recording of the work.

Like some other things posted here this record has not been entirely forgotten, and is available on CD from Pearl. I have not sought the cd it out or heard it, but the label usually does an acceptable job with little or no sonic manipulation. The files linked to below have been lightly restored, not to change the basic sound but to rid them of obvious LP noise.

Link to folder with all files


  1. Hi Lawrence, I have taken your comments on Ormandy to heart, and was thinking of posting one of his records on my blog as penance for my disbelief in his abilities. This very record was one of the possibilities! Maybe I'll do the Prokofiev sixth instead . . .

  2. I love the Prokofiev sixth! Ormandy's reading isn't as angular as some, the opening measures aren't as much thumbing the nose at Party apparatchiks, which it seems to me in some performances, but it is irresistibly gorgeous. I have a late, stereo recording of him doing the sixth; is there an earlier one that you're aware of. I'm still trying to get the Ida Haendel tracks: Rapidshare has been very busy.

  3. Yes, what I have is a January 1950 recording. (I think I may have the stereo as well.) Haven't listened to it yet - just picked it up a few weeks ago. I told you I took your words to heart!

  4. Great! If you post it I'll most certainly download it.