Brilliant piano duo from across the pond

In years gone by the record catalogues haven’t exactly wanted for first-rate husband-and-wife piano-duo teams. Think of Lyubov Bruk and Mark Taimanov, Vitya Vronsky and Victor Babin, Robert and Gaby Casadesus, Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow, Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick and Pierre Luboshutz (1890-1971) and Genia Nemenoff (1905-1989), who first met at the Paris Conservatoire where Luboshutz was conducting a masterclass for a small group of professionals (Nemenoff amongst them). Ward Marston’s stimulating 4-cd collection of Luboshutz and Nemenoff recordings (54010-2, 4 cds, $54, available from www.marstonrecords.com) is valuable for a number of reasons, primarily how it demonstrates a duo partnership that was neither a battle of pianistic wills nor a study in mutual musical subservience but rather two minds truly working as one, a single virtuoso with two pianos, four hands. To hear their live account of Mozart’s great E flat Concerto under Boston Symphony maestro Serge Koussevitzky (1938), especially those myriad playful impulses in the first movement, is to witness the tightest possible dialogue. Real fun, too. Their 1941 Victor recording of Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre approaches Leopold Stokowski (in Philadelphia) for Gothic scaremongering whereas Harl McDonald’s Concerto for two pianos (with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the composer, broadcast April 1944) closes with a heavily percussive though tuneful finale. Also included Debussy’s exotic Lindaraja, Reger’s consistently imposing Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue and various other works, a number of them imaginative transcriptions. Sound sources are shellac, broadcast and vinyl (mono and stereo), the transfers impeccable, the annotations revealing. If you’re a piano buff, go for it.

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