Albert Ferber’s Decca Recordings

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 4

The Swiss-born London-based pianist Albert Ferber (1911-1987) studied with Karl Leimer, as well as with Leimer’s most prominent pupil Walter Gieseking. During the war years, Ferber conducted theater orchestras, wrote film scores, and worked as an accompanist. From 1945 through 1951 Ferber made a handful of recordings for British Decca. All are reissued here, along with three previously unpublished Haydn and Mozart items.

Ferber’s Haydn C major Fantasia is clean and tasteful, if a bit cut and dried. More memorable, however, are his sensitively nuanced Mozart D major Minuet and G major Gigue. Among the 78 rpm-era’s Beethoven “Les Adieux” Sonata Op. 81a recordings, Ferber’s clarity and cultivation provide a plausible alternative to the more impetuous, dynamically charged Schnabel, Kempff, Rubinstein, and Godowsky versions. However, Ferber’s brisk and headlong Schubert F minor D. 935 No. 1 Impromptu lands within spitting distance of Schnabel’s paradigm. His “little” Schubert A major Sonata D. 664 embodies what I call the “three f’s”: fluidity, fluency, and flexibility. It’s easily the best thing Ferber recorded for Decca.

Six Mendelssohn Songs Without Words offer nothing beyond staid, matter-of-fact pianism. Nor do I find Ferber’s Schumann Kinderszenen Op. 15 particularly special, especially in light of superior shellac and early LP competition from Cortot, Schnabel, Zecchi, and Curzon. Considering the original recordings’ sonic limitations, Mark Obert-Thorn’s restorations impress, as do Jonathan Summers’ informative annotations. Now how about Eloquence bringing out British pianist Kathleen Long’s complete 1940s/50s Decca recordings?

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Recording Details:

Album Title: Albert Ferber--Decca Recordings 1945-1951
Reference Recording: None for this collection

Works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, & Schumann

  • Albert Ferber (piano)

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