ALFRED CORTOT The Late Recordings Vol.2: 1948 & 1949

1948 ‘Encores’

BACH arr Cortot “Aria” (Concerto in F minor, BWV1056 - Adagio);PURCELL arr Cortot “Minuet” (Harpsichord Suites 1 & 8 - Minuets); SCHUBERT arr Cortot Litanie; SCHUMANN Vogel als Prophet, Op.82/7; CHOPIN Nocturne in F sharp, Op.15/2; BRAHMS arr Cortot Wiegenlied
FRANCK Prélude, Aria et Final (Previously Unpublished)
DEBUSSY Préludes Book One
Appendix: 1948 ‘encores’ in LP version
BACH arr Cortot “Aria” (Concerto in F minor, BWV1056 - Adagio); PURCELL arr Cortot “Minuet” (Harpsichord Suites1 & 8 - Minuets); SCHUMANN Vogel als Prophet, Op.82/7

Although he was universally regarded as one of the greatest pianists of the last century, Cortot’s later recordings have had a bit of a bad press. Though he had a virtuoso technique it was fallible and the careless slips he was renowned for became more pronounced as he became older. It’s true that some embarrasing recordings exist and and a Beethoven sonata cycle went so badly it has never seen the light of day but in the right repertoire these aspects of his playing are not an issue and in recordings such as those presented here we can enjoy Cortot’s wonderful musicality without the need to make any allowance for a faltering technique The major work here is the complete first book of Debussy Préludes. This set, recorded in the last days of 78s, had only a limited life as LP technology arrived within a year and brought with it improved recording quality. The set was reissued as an LP in 1953, from a technical point of view already out of date, but of course nowadays this is of no consequence when we have the glory of Cortot’s playing to consider.

The Franck Prélude, Aria et Final from 1947 has not been previously issued though passed by Cortot himself. Only one set of test pressings is known to exist, and it is missing the second of six sides, so to make a complete performance we have dubbed in the second side of Cortot’s earlier 1932 recording of the work. Perhaps the gems of this collection are the series of ‘Encores’ which Cortot recorded in 1948. These works present the essence of Cortot’s style, his instantly recognizable singing line, his wonderful voicing of chords and the nobility of it all.It appears that when some of these titles were reissued on LP different takes, recorded on tape, were used so these versions are included as an appendix.