Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shostakovich: First Piano Concerto

Here is the first recording of Shostakovich's First Piano Concerto, for piano, trumpet and strings.  It's played with panache by the Australian pianist Eileen Joyce (1908-1991), accompanied by the Hallé Orchestra (with principal trumpeter Arthur Lockwood) under the tragically short-lived Leslie Heward (1897-1943).  This recording was actually presented about a month ago by Tin Ear at The Music Parlour, as part of a series of Leslie Heward recordings, but that derived from a 1985 LP transfer, whereas mine is from the actual 78s (American pressings of British matrices), so I hope Tin Ear will forgive my encroachment upon his territory.  Besides, with my transfer you also get the filler side, a solo piano recording by Eileen Joyce of two Scriabin preludes.  And it gives me an excuse to present another Steinweiss cover:

This is the third copy of MM-527 that I have owned; the first I acquired on a hot summer day in 1976, when I was thirteen.  I was strolling the streets of downtown Decatur, Ga., probably going from the library to catch the bus home, when I spied a new used-bookshop called Cantrell's Books and Things at 112 E. Ponce de Leon Avenue (now the site of a folk art gallery intriguingly called "Wild Oats and Billy Goats").  Going in, I found that among the "things" were one wall lined with 78-rpm classical sets going for 50 cents per disc.  I had about four and a half dollars on me, so I bought as much as I could afford, namely, two sets: one was Beethoven's Op. 132 quartet played by the Budapest Quartet (Columbia MM-545) and the other was this Shostakovich piano concerto recording.  I had recently discovered Shostakovich and knew several of the symphonies but none of the concertos.  I loved Op. 35 on first hearing; it is still one of my favorite Shostakovich works, and this is still my favorite recording of it.

Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 35 (+ 2 Scriabin Preludes)
Eileen Joyce, piano; Arthur Lockwood, trumpet;
Hallé Orchestra conducted by Leslie Heward
Recorded October 24, 1941
Columbia Masterworks MM-527, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 56.81 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 28.63 MB)

Another record by Miss Joyce is this one of two Beethoven bagatelles, including the ever-popular "Für Elise":

Beethoven: Bagatelle in C, Op. 33, No. 2 and "Für Elise"
Eileen Joyce, piano
Recorded May, 1940
English Columbia DX 974, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 15.32 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 7.2 MB)

And from Leslie Heward, two recordings that I uploaded previously, of Haydn and Mozart, which are still available:

Haydn: Symphony No. 103 in E-Flat ("Drum Roll")
Mozart: Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K. 546
Hallé Orchestra conducted by Leslie Heward
Recorded September 29 and 25, 1941
Columbia Masterworks MM-547, three 78-rpm records
English Columbia DX 1056, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC files, 82.75 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 34.94 MB)


  1. Hi Bryan - Thanks for this recording. One of the more interesting Steinweiss covers. Is he suggesting that the music is Soviet or Eileen Joyce is a Communist?

  2. Far from being my territory (& I'm highly likely to re-locate..) it's always interesting to compare transfers.
    EMI's effort seems very marginally 'fresher' (maybe due to my FLAC?) but they were also working from shellacs - which they usually 'damped down'.
    So..the sound is distinctly similar - but your 'performance' runs 31 seconds slower! [transcribed my LP on a JVC quartz-lock DD TT].

  3. Buster - I think the former; Steinweiss often resorted to a hammer-and-sickle motif on his covers for Soviet music during this period (after all, during the War, when this set was issued, the Soviets were our allies and this would have been seen as a patriotic gesture).

    Tin Ear - I wonder if British orchestras tuned higher than the standard A=440 back then? I tried to pitch my transfer at 440, on closer listen it seems nearer to 437 but that should only make a few seconds' difference!

  4. The EMI is clearly 'playing faster' - a previous impression I've had; but can guarantee the transfer is speed-accurate (needed to check due to a slight 'speeding' problem on the recent Kolassi/Chausson on the alongside-deck).
    Maybe you have tested it for pitch/cross-referenced with any other EMI 78-to-LP transfers I may have uploaded/you have..but the discrepancy (closing-in on 3%) is very substantial..

  5. Tin Ear - I just downloaded your Shostakovich transfer (I have that EMI LP myself, but don't trust my LP deck!) and it is pitched about A=448. I also checked an EMI CD of the Busch Chamber Players' Bach Brandenburg #1, and found it to be about A=446. Either EMI transfers are inclined to be fast, or they know something I don't about British concert pitch in the 1930s-40s! (Tully Potter, in his recent Busch biography, says that British concert pitch was lower than that of Continental Europe - as Busch and his Quartet colleagues discovered when they came to London to make these recordings with British orchestral players - but he doesn't give figures!)

  6. Out of curiosity: what is A with those PC.1 shellac's playing @ a strobe-accurate 78rpm?
    Didn't get an impression the other Heward titles were (at least noticeably) speeded-up - but will do a check on Busch's Suites as also have the WRC 2LP (only have the Brandenburg's on 78).
    So, as with old Victor Acoustics, were they 'expected' to be played-back @ higher pitch - as EMI must 'know why they are doing this' - if it is a regular occurence (but not something that I can particularly recall being commented-upon).

  7. Tin Ear - can't answer your question as I can't lay my hands on a strobe disc right now, and my old Lenco doesn't have one built-in. So I will be interested in your findings re the Bach Suites.

  8. A very interesting performance! Thanks again!

  9. Beautiful recording and transfer ! Thank you very much !

  10. I'm going thru a box of records bought at a sale and this record is in there. It is in great shape, the album box it's in is flawless. Can anyone tell me if this is worth any money?