Sunday, October 30, 2016

Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 (Levant)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
This posting is in response to a request. I obtained this set of Oscar Levant playing "the" Tchaikovsky concerto, graced with one of Alex Steinweiss' most delightful cover designs, about five years ago from Ken Halperin of Collecting Record Covers. I duly made a transfer, then shelved it, not sure if it would be of interest to anybody. Then, two months ago, after I posted Levant's debut album, there was a request for it, and I am delighted to be able to oblige:

Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 23
Oscar Levant, piano; Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy
Recorded December 12, 1947
Rachmaninoff: Prelude in G Major, Op. 32, No. 5
Oscar Levant, piano
Recorded November 19, 1947
Columbia Masterworks set MM-785, five 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 86.99 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 60.07 MB)

This was Oscar Levant's first concerto recording other than of works by Gershwin, with whom he was so closely associated; on the very next day, however, he was in New York recording the Grieg concerto with Efrem Kurtz! With Ormandy, the Tchaikovsky was his second recording, after the best-selling "Rhapsody in Blue" of 1945. That, however, was not Levant's first phonographic outing with the Rhapsody; that honor belongs to a Brunswick issue of 1927, with Frank Black's Orchestra, which I recently discovered here on YouTube. Writing in his best-selling book, "A Smattering of Ignorance", Levant said of this recording that "contrary to the common impression that composers do not think highly of their own abilities as performers, Gershwin was quite firm in his preference for his own version on Victor. At this distance [twelve years] I can acknowledge that it is much superior."


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  2. Thanks so much Bryan for your beautiful transfer of that old recording (and for the GREAT cover). So interesting to hear Levant in that repertoire. Actually this version remains one of my preferred, very straightforward; Ormandy is the perfect match there as well.

  3. Thanks, Bryan! The other day I felt I could never hear the Tchaikovsky again, but I'll always make an exception for you (and Levant). Enjoying it now! All the best, Nick

  4. Dear Bryan, Let me be back to your Bentzon post. Just fantastic to have, thanks to you, this recording as I will conduct this piece soon in Copenhagen....A great work indeed !!