Great Brazilian Pianists Vol. 1

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 5

Sound Quality: 2

Best known, perhaps, as the sister of Ezra Pound’s companion, violinist Olga Rudge, pianist Antonietta Rudge (1885-1974) enjoyed a successful international career during the 20th century’s first decades. Charles Widor and Isidore Philipp considered Rudge the best female pianist of her time, while Arthur Rubinstein left a glowing testimonial in praise of her artistry. In later years Rudge focused her energies on teaching. Bearing this in mind, the present collection of rare 78s and private recordings dating from 1933 to 1957 leaves a perplexing impression. In Chopin’s Barcarolle, for example, the pianist tows an uneasy line between expressive liberties and excessive mannerisms while barnstorming her way through the sublime coda. She lily-gilds and taffy-pulls the Wagner/Liszt Liebestod apart in a manner more appropriate to The Perils of Pauline than Tristan und Isolde. Similarly, Chopin’s C-sharp minor Mazurka Op. 63 No. 3 abounds in provincial, salon-like distensions of phrase: “Rudge’s Nudges!” In fairness, Rudge takes a more direct, agreeable, and friskier than usual route through the same composer’s A-flat Impromptu.

The slighter selections actually receive the most fluent and coherent readings: Levy’s Tango Brasileiro, Oswald’s note-gobbling Improviso Op. 19, plus A Boneca de Trapo and Alegria na Horta by Villa-Lobos. Prokofiev’s Suggestion Diabolique manages to be driven and elegant at the same time, and the Glück/Sgambati “Melodée” from Orfeo is ardently spun, but without the effortless grace of Egon Petri’s classic shellac version. Ravel’s Jeux d’Eau is the best sounding item in this collection, although the tinkly, dynamically restricted playing fails to turn me on. I suspect the recording emanates from a piano roll. The English translation for the annotations pertaining to the performances on this disc is poorly copy-edited. Not that the fulsome and hyperbolic Portuguese original is any better…



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Recording Details:

Album Title: Great Brazilian Pianists Vol. 1
Reference Recording: None

Works by Chopin, Liszt, Prokofiev, Ravel, Villa-Lobos, others -

  • Antonietta Rudge (piano)

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