Sound and vision blog

19 July 2010

Recording of the Week: Alfred Cortot rides to the Abyss

Jonathan Summers, curator of classical music recordings at the British Library Sound Archive, writes:

Cortot recorded the complete Preludes of Chopin a number of times. This particular one comes from 1926 when he was at the height of his powers. He wrote that this particular prelude represented to him 'a ride to the abyss' (as in Faust) and he plays it with a fury and speed like no other pianist ever has:


Chopin 'Recording of the Week' highlights gems from the Archival Sound Recordings website, chosen by British Library experts or recommended by listeners. This week's item was selected from the Chopin collection.



Dear Mr. Jonathan Summers. I think you should be the right person to solve an old mystery for me.
Did Alfred Cortot ever travel to South America? The reason of my question is the following: I'm in posession of a recording (on shellac)of the 24 preludes of Chopin with Alfred Cortot. A remarkable recording - and as far as I know, very rare too. The album has the title "Los veinticuatro preludios", and I know for sure that it's bought in Argentina. Is this a small sensation? The catalogue nos (DB20228/31)are NOT mentioned in "The international red label catalogue" (the oakwood press). To date the recording is difficult, but it's for sure electric. And Cortot's playing is phenomenal! If you solve this mystery, I'll personally give you a bottle of my best wine!
Matrix nos could explain something, but unfortunately the records are not here in my house at the moment. My email:
Yours Hans Backhaus, Denmark

Dear Hans,
Thanks for your message. Jonathan is away from the office till 13 September but I've asked him to reply once he's back.
Richard Ranft, The British Library

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