title might spark some imprecise recognition in these of a sure age, although probably as a cultural determine lauded by earlier generations. Iturbi, who died at age 84 in 1980, was a celebrated Spanish pianist and conductor who migrated into Hollywood films within the Nineteen Forties, when he concurrently held a coveted recording contract with RCA that endured for 20 years, beginning within the mid-Thirties. However although beloved by many, he by no means fairly entered the pantheon of musicians whose names nonetheless resound.
Sony Classical begs to vary, apparently, having simply reissued all of Iturbi’s RCA recordings in a group of 16 compact discs. This lavish excavation bears the quite flippant title “From Hollywood to the World”—although, if something, the nouns must be reversed on this case. Like earlier units from the label dedicated to the pianist
and the nice contralto
this one, too, is basically a coffee-table guide with CDs inside—the music handsomely supplemented by a large number of historic images, discographies and an prolonged, if fulsome, biographical essay from the set’s co-producer, the crooner and Tin Pan Alley scholar
Iturbi was nothing if not catholic in his musical tastes, and most of the customary repertory’s greatest names get a minimum of some illustration right here, together with Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Ravel and Rachmaninoff. Solely Brahms and Schubert are conspicuously absent. Extra worthwhile is the trove of Spanish keyboard music carried out by Iturbi—an excellent portion of it in duet with
his proficient youthful sister. For good measure, this set generously contains all her solo-piano recordings for RCA (about two CDs’ value) as a welcome fillip.
Her contribution to this set shouldn’t be minimized; for in her modest manner, Amparo is her brother’s equal in expertise—and arguably his superior in musicality. Her really feel for the works of Spanish composers like
is as uncanny as his. However she summons extra colour and vigor in Ravel than he achieves, simply as her Mozart exceeds his in class and elasticity. And care to guess which sibling, in 1954, recorded Shostakovich? (One suspects this launch is, inadvertently, one other indictment of Twentieth-century classical-music tradition, wherein gifted ladies seldom loved renown equal to their male counterparts.)
Although at the start a pianist, José Iturbi additionally carried out and, as confirmed on this set, managed credible performances of orchestral warhorses, many led from the keyboard, together with two concertos by Mozart: the No. 20 (Ok. 466) and, along with his sister as accomplice, the No. 10 for Two Pianos (Ok. 365). Each works are included twice on this set, recorded 12 years aside, with the sooner variations, from 1940, persistently superior in verve and character.
The identical could be stated about Iturbi’s two recordings of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, from 1941 and 1952, although each are gratifyingly animated accounts deserving renewed consideration. Two purely orchestral works, Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” Symphony and Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony, possess moments of scrappy pleasure inside a foursquare framework, their principal curiosity now being examples of Iturbi’s affiliation with the Rochester Philharmonic, the place he served as music director from 1936 to 1944.
Along with the concertos, a number of items for solo piano are repeated, amongst them Schumann’s “Arabesque,” Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” and “Rêverie” and Chopin’s “Heroic” Polonaise. And as soon as once more the sooner readings usually yield larger pleasure, the standard knowledge being that Hollywood sapped Iturbi’s artistry even because it expanded his fame.
As is usually the case in compendiums like this, materials beforehand unissued finds its option to large availability. Right here essentially the most attractive exhumation—
Manuel de Falla’s
endlessly listenable “Seven Spanish Folks Songs,” with the fantastic Spanish soprano
accompanied by Iturbi on piano—is, sadly, one that ought to have remained buried. The singer sounds uncharacteristically shrill and enunciates poorly, and the balances do Iturbi no favors.
None of Iturbi’s contributions to seven MGM musicals seems on these discs. However a well-annotated filmography demonstrates his notable involvement with this once-popular medium. His face, in spite of everything, opens “Anchors Aweigh” (1945), starring
And his look in “Music for Tens of millions” (1944) confirms he might maintain his personal in opposition to such seasoned display stars as
June Allyson and
These sufficient will discover most of his films on DVD and in common rotation on the cable channel Turner Traditional Motion pictures.
So, past its aural pleasures, this set paperwork a time when classical music and its practitioners weren’t regarded solely as elitist, however as a substitute as a few of the sturdy yarn from which America’s cultural tapestry was woven. That point now appears virtually as distant as when stove-pipe hats and high-buttoned sneakers had been trendy. José Iturbi, in his refined however unpretentious manner, reminds us that wasn’t all the time true.
—Mr. Mermelstein is the Journal’s classical music critic.
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