Alfred Cortot - The Anniversary Edition (40 CD box set, APE)
Alfred Cortot – The Anniversary Edition (40 CD box set, APE)

Audio CD
SPARS Code: ADD
Number of Discs: 40 CD box set
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: EMI
Size: 9.01 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

CD 01
Albeniz Hojas de album, Op. 165 “España”: no 3, Malagueña
Albeniz Cantos de España, Op. 232: no 5, Seguidillas
Debussy Préludes, Book 1: no 8, La fille aux cheveux de lin
Debussy Préludes, Book 1: no 12, Minstrels
Chopin Tarantella in A flat major, Op. 43
Liszt Concert Etude, S 144: no 2 in F minor, La leggierezza
Saint-Saëns Etude, Op. 52: no 6, En forme de Valse
Chopin Polish Song, Op. 74: no 12, My Joys
Chopin Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57
Liszt Paraphrase on Quartet from Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, S 434
Ravel Jeux d’eau
Chopin Tarantella in A flat major, Op. 43
Chopin Etude, Op. 10: no 5 in G flat major “Black Keys”
Chopin Etude, Op. 25: no 9 in G flat major
Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody, S 244: no 2 in C sharp minor – Excerpt(s)
Albeniz Iberia, Book 2: no 3, Triana
Chopin Etude, Op. 25: no 3 in F major
Chopin Etude, Op. 25: no 2 in F minor
Chopin Impromptu no 1 in A flat major, B 110/Op. 29
Fauré Romances sans paroles, Op. 17: no 3 in A flat major
Liszt Années de pèlerinage, première année, S 160 “Suisse”: no 4, Au bord d’une source
Chopin Grand polonaise brillante in E flat major, Op. 22
Scriabin Etude, Op. 8: no 12 in D sharp minor
Mendelssohn Scherzo, Op. 16: no 2 in E minor, Scherzo
Mendelssohn Rondo capriccioso in E major, Op. 14

CD 02
Weber Invitation to the Dance
Albeniz Cantos de España, Op. 232: no 5, Seguidillas
Albeniz Hojas de album, Op. 165 “España”: no 3, Malagueña
Chopin Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57
Chopin Tarantella in A flat major, Op. 43
Chopin Polish Song, Op. 74: no 12, My Joys
Chopin Etude, Op. 10: no 5 in G flat major “Black Keys”
Chopin Etude, Op. 25: no 9 in G flat major
Chopin Etude, Op. 25: no 11 in A minor
Liszt Concert Etude, S 144: no 2 in F minor, La leggierezza
Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody, S 244: no 2 in C sharp minor
Liszt Paraphrase on Quartet from Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, S 434
Ravel Jeux d’eau
Saint-Saëns Etude left hand, Op. 135: no 4, Bourée
Debussy Children’s Corner Suite
Debussy Préludes, Book 1: no 10, La cathédrale engloutie

CD 03
Schumann Concerto in A minor, Op. 54
Schumann Carnaval, Op. 9
Fauré Dolly, Op. 56: no 1, Berceuse
Brahms Wiegenlied, Op. 49: no 4
Schubert Litanei, D 343
Chopin Etude, Op. 25: no 1 in A flat major
Chopin Waltz, Op. 64: no 2 in C sharp minor
Chopin Impromptu no 2 in F sharp major, Op. 36
Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody, S 244: no 11 in A minor

CD 04
Chopin Preludes (24), Op. 28
Albeniz Cantos de España, Op. 232: no 3, Bajo la palmera
Handel Air and Variations “The Harmonious Blacksmith”
Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody, S 244: no 11 in A minor
Chopin Ballade no 1 in G minor, B 66/Op. 23
Chopin Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57
Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody, S 244: no 2 in C sharp minor
Liszt Paraphrase on Quartet from Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, S 434

CD 05
Weber Invitation to the Dance
Schumann Concerto in A minor, Op. 54
Franck Symphonic Variations with Orchestra
Debussy Children’s Corner Suite
Debussy Préludes, Book 1: no 8, La fille aux cheveux de lin
Debussy Préludes, Book 1: no 3, Le vent dans la plaine

CD 06
Chopin Sonata no 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 “Funeral March”
Chopin Prelude, Op. 28: no 12 in G sharp minor
Chopin Ballades (4) Opp. 23; 38; 47; 52
Chopin Nocturne, Op. 9: no 2 in E flat major
Chopin Waltz, Op. 64: no 2 in C sharp minor
Franck Prelude, Chorale and Fugue

CD 07
Schumann Carnaval, Op. 9
Schumann Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13 & Op. post
Liszt Sonata in B minor, S 178

CD 08
Albeniz Hojas de album, Op. 165 “España”: no 3, Malagueña
Albeniz Cantos de España, Op. 232: no 5, Seguidillas
Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody, S 244: no 11 in A minor
Chopin Sonata no 3 in B minor, Op. 58
Chopin Tarantella in A flat major, Op. 43
Chopin Waltz, Op. 69: no 1 in A flat major, “L’adieu”
Liszt Concert Etude, S 144: no 2 in F minor, La leggierezza
Saint-Saëns Etude, Op. 52: no 6, En forme de Valse

CD 09
Debussy Préludes (12), Book 1
Ravel Sonatine
Ravel Jeux d’eau
Franck Prelude, Aria and Finale

CD 10
Chopin Ballades (4) Opp. 23; 38; 47; 52
Chopin Impromptus (4) Opp. 29; 36; 51; 66 “Fantaisie-Impromptu”
Chopin Fantasie, Op. 49
Chopin Tarantella in A flat major, Op. 43
Chopin Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53 “Heroic”

CD 11
Chopin Sonata no 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 “Funeral March”
Chopin Sonata no 3 in B minor, Op. 58
Chopin Preludes (24), Op. 28

CD 12
Chopin Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op. 60
Chopin Etudes (12), Op. 10
Chopin Etudes (12), Op. 25

CD 13
Chopin Waltzes (14)
Chopin Concerto no 2 in F minor, Op. 21

CD 14
Schumann Concerto in A minor, Op. 54
Franck Symphonic Variations with Orchestra
Saint-Saëns Concerto no 4 in C minor, Op. 44

CD 15
Schumann Kinderszenen, Op. 15
Schumann Papillon, Op. 2
Schumann Kreisleriana, Op. 16

CD 16
Schumann Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6
Schubert German Dances, D 790
Schubert Litanei, D 343
Liszt Légende, S 175: no 2, St Francis de Paule walks on water
Bach Concerto for Harpsichord in F minor, BWV 1056: 2nd movement, Largo-Arioso
Bach Concerto for Organ in D minor, BWV 596 (after Vivaldi)
Purcell Minuet
Purcell Siciliana
Purcell Gavotte
Purcell Air
Schumann Phantasiestücke, Op. 12: no 1, Des Abends

CD 17
Mendelssohn Song without words Op.19 No.1
Mendelssohn Variations Sérieuses (17) in D minor, Op. 54
Chopin Polish Song, Op. 74: no 2, Spring
Chopin Polish Song, Op. 74: no 12, My Joys
Chopin Polish Song, Op. 74: no 14, The ring
Weber Sonata no 2 in A flat Minor, Op. 39
Ravel Concerto left hand in D major

CD 18
Chopin Etudes (12), Op. 10
Chopin Etudes (12), Op. 25

CD 19
Chopin Preludes (24), Op. 28
Chopin Waltzes (14)

CD 20
Schumann Kinderszenen, Op. 15
Debussy Children’s Corner Suite
Debussy Préludes, Book 1: no 10, La cathédrale engloutie
Franck Prelude, Aria and Finale
Chopin Nouvelles Etudes (3)

CD 21
Chopin Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 45
Chopin Nocturne, Op. 55: no 1 in F minor
Chopin Nocturne, Op. 55: no 2 in E flat major
Chopin Nocturne, Op. 55: no 2 in E flat major
Chopin Polonaise-fantaisie in A flat major, Op. 61
Chopin Nocturne, Op. 15: no 2 in F sharp major
Chopin Nocturne, Op. 15: no 2 in F sharp major
Schumann Waldszenen, Op. 82: no 7, Vogel als Prophet
Schumann Waldszenen, Op. 82: no 7, Vogel als Prophet
Brahms Wiegenlied, Op. 49: no 4
Schubert Litanei, D 343
Bach Concerto for Harpsichord in F minor, BWV 1056: 2nd movement, Largo-Arioso
Bach Concerto for Harpsichord in F minor, BWV 1056: 2nd movement, Largo-Arioso
Purcell Suites for harpsichord, Z. 660&669: Suites 1 & 8: Minuet
Purcell Suites for harpsichord, Z. 660&669: Suites 1 & 8: Minuet

CD 22
Debussy Préludes (12), Book 1
Chopin Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57
Chopin Nouvelles Etudes (3)
Chopin Waltze, Op. 64: no 1 in D flat major “Minute Waltz”
Chopin Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 45
Chopin Nocturne, Op. 9: no 2 in E flat major
Chopin Waltze, Op. 69: no 1 in A flat major, “L’adieu”
Chopin Waltz, Op. 70: no 1 in G flat major

CD 23
Chopin Prelude, Op. 28: no 15 in D flat major “Raindrop”
Chopin Mazurka, Op. 6: no 2 in C sharp minor
Chopin Mazurka, Op. 63: no 3 in C sharp minor
Mendelssohn Variations Sérieuses (17) in D minor, Op. 54
Chopin Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op. 60
Chopin Etude, Op. 10: no 3 in E major, “Tristesse”
Chopin Etude, Op. 10: no 4 in C sharp minor,
Chopin Etude, Op. 25: no 2 in F minor
Chopin Nocturne, Op. 15: no 1 in F major
Chopin Nocturne, Op. 27: no 1 in C sharp minor,
Chopin Waltze, Op. 34: no 2 in A minor
Chopin Waltze, Op. 69: no 1 in A flat major, “L’adieu”
Chopin Waltze Op. 70: no 2 in F minor
Schubert German Dances, D 790

CD 24
Chopin Etude, Op. 10: no 3 in E major, “Tristesse”
Chopin Etude, Op. 25: no 9 in G flat major
Chopin Fantasie, Op. 49
Chopin Impromptu no 2 in F sharp major, Op. 36
Chopin Nocturne, Op. 9: no 2 in E flat major
Chopin Sonata no 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 “Funeral March”
Chopin Scherzo no 2, Op. 31
Chopin Scherzo no 3, Op. 39
Chopin Grand polonaise brillante in E flat major, Op. 22
Chopin Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53 “Heroic”

CD 25
Chopin Prelude, Op. 28: no 15 in D flat major “Raindrop”
Chopin Waltz, Op. 64: no 1 in D flat major “Minute Waltz”
Debussy Children’s Corner Suite: no 6, Golliwogg’s Cakewalk
Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody, S 244: no 2 in C sharp minor
Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody, S 244: no 11 in A minor
Mendelssohn Variations Sérieuses (17) in D minor, Op. 54
Saint-Saëns Etude left hand, Op. 135: no 4, Bourée
Schubert Litanei, D 343
Schubert Moments musical, D 780/Op. 94: no 3 in F minor
Brahms Wiegenlied, Op. 49: no 4
Chopin Waltz, Op. 70: no 1 in G flat major
Chopin Sonata no 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 “Funeral March”
Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody, S 244: no 11 in A minor
Schubert Litanei, D 343
Debussy Children’s Corner Suite

CD 26
Schumann Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13 & Op. post
Schumann Carnaval, Op. 9

CD 27
Schumann Kinderszenen, Op. 15
Schumann Kreisleriana, Op. 16
Chopin Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57
Chopin Etude, Op. 10: no 5 in G flat major “Black Keys”
Chopin Etude, Op. 25: no 2 in F minor
Chopin Etude, Op. 25: no 9 in G flat major
Chopin Sonata no 3 in B minor, Op. 58: 3rd movement, Largo
Chopin Tarantella in A flat major, Op. 43
Chopin Waltz, Op. 64: no 1 in D flat major “Minute Waltz”
Chopin Waltz, Op. 64: no 2 in C sharp minor
Chopin Waltz, Op. 69: no 1 in A flat major, “L’adieu”
Chopin Waltz, Op. 70: no 1 in G flat major
Schubert Moments musical, D 780/Op. 94: no 3 in F minor

CD 28
Chopin Preludes (24), Op. 28
Chopin Ballades (4) Opp. 23; 38; 47; 52

CD 29
Haydn Trio, Hob 15 no 25
Beethoven Trio, Op. 97 “Archduke”
Beethoven Variations (10) in G major, Op. 121a “Kakadu Variations”
Beethoven Variations (7) on Mozart’s “Bei Männern”, WoO 46

CD 30
Schubert Trio no 1 in B flat major, D 898/Op. 99
Mendelssohn Trio no 1 in D minor, Op. 49

CD 31
Schumann Trio no 1 in D minor, Op. 63
Beethoven Sonata for Violin and Piano no 9 in A major, Op. 47 “Kreutzer”

CD 32
Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major
Franck Piano Quintet in F minor

CD 33
Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major
Fauré Sonata for Violin and Piano no 1 in A major, Op. 13
Fauré Berceuse for Violin and Piano in D major, Op. 16
Debussy Sonata for Violin and Piano in G minor
Debussy Préludes, Book 1: no 12, Minstrels

CD 34
Brahms Concerto for Violin and Cello in A minor, Op. 102 “Double”
Chausson Concerto for Piano, Violin and String Quartet in D major, Op. 21

CD 35
Couperin Huitièm concert, in G major “dans le goût théatral”
Bach Brandenburg Concerto no 1 in F major, BWV 1046
Bach Brandenburg Concerto no 2 in F major, BWV 1047
Bach Brandenburg Concerto no 3 in G major, BWV 1048

CD 36
Bach Brandenburg Concerto no 4 in G major, BWV 1049
Bach Brandenburg Concerto no 5 in D major, BWV 1050
Bach Brandenburg Concerto no 6 in B flat major, BWV 1051

CD 37
Schumann Dichterliebe, Op. 48
Debussy Fêtes galantes, Set 1: no 1, En sourdine
Debussy Fêtes galantes, Set 1: no 2, Fantoches
Debussy Fêtes galantes, Set 1: no 3, Clair de lune
Debussy Fêtes galantes, Set 2: no 1, Les ingénus
Debussy Fêtes galantes, Set 2: no 2, Le faune
Debussy Fêtes galantes, Set 2: no 3, Colloque sentimental
Debussy Chansons (3) de Bilitis: no 1, La flûte de Pan
Debussy Chansons (3) de Bilitis: no 2, La chevelure
Debussy Chansons (3) de Bilitis: no 3, Le tombeau des naïdes
Debussy Le promenoir des deux amants: no 1, La grotte
Debussy Le promenoir des deux amants: no 2, Crois mon conseil, chère Climène
Debussy Le promenoir des deux amants: no 3, Je tremble en voyant ton visage
Debussy Proses lyriques: no 2, De grève
Debussy Ballades de François Villon: no 3, Ballade des femmes de Paris

CD 38
Beethoven Sonata no 8 in C minor, Op. 13 “Pathétique”
Beethoven Sonata no 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27 no 2 “Moonlight”

CD 39
Beethoven Sonata no 23 in F minor, Op. 57 “Appassionata” fragment
Beethoven Sonata no 23 in F minor, Op. 57 “Appassionata” fragment
Beethoven Sonata no 27 in E minor, Op. 90
Beethoven Sonata no 27 in E minor, Op. 90 fragment

CD 40
Beethoven Sonata no 23 in F minor, Op. 57 “Appassionata”
Beethoven Sonata no 26 in E flat major, Op. 81a “Les Adieux”
Beethoven Sonata no 26 in E flat major, Op. 81a “Les Adieux”

I already had the six-CD French EMI set of Cortot Chopin which reviewers generally agree contains the top cream of Cortot’s recordings–also the Naxos reissues of the Schumann and Mendelssohn Trios w/Thibaud and Casals. SO, was I wrong to splurge for the 40-CD collection? I don’t think so, and as the main question for a lot of people will be “Do we really need 40 CDs of Cortot?” I will try to make an argument for buying it.

1. You wouldn’t actually pay much more for the 40-CD set than I paid for the 6-CD one in days of yore, and it takes up about the same space on the shelf, so why not?

2. Cortot is not just any good pianist. He is to 20th-century piano playing as Laurence Olivier is to 20th-century acting. In fact, Cortot playing Chopin is equivalent to Olivier performing Shakespeare. Now, you might say, “I could feel justified in calling someone uncultured who has not seen Olivier’s ‘Henry V’ or ‘Hamlet,’ but do we need to see him in ‘The Entertainer’ or ‘Sleuth’?” I think you do, because part of what made Olivier amazing was his range of performance and in ‘The Entertainer’ he is pretty damn good in a fairly good modern play. Having seen him perform in that will enrich your appreciation of his Shakespeare. And Cortot never recorded anything that, as a composition, was on the mediocre level of ‘Sleuth.’

3. Apart from the pieces in which Cortot is interesting but not authoritative (I’d count the Liszt Sonata as one of those pieces), there are non-Chopin performances in which Cortot is simply incomparable, particularly the Schumann works. Every great pianist’s performance of ‘Carnaval’ is different (my personal favorite is the Michelangeli performance on Testament but I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone) but Cortot’s is in a class all its own. And his ‘Papillons’ made sense out of the piece to me, after years of living with (for instance) a Richter performance which is wonderful but never quite got inside the skin of the piece as Cortot does. Cortot’s performance of the Weber Second Piano Sonata also blew me away as Brendel’s performance, beautiful as it is, never succeeded in doing.

4. Discs 29-34, with the chamber music, also provide a mini-anthology of the performances of violinist Jacques Thibaud. The booklet notes for the set ungallantly proclaim that Thibaut’s playing style now appears especially dated, but I couldn’t care less–what beautiful playing, like seeing a clear mountain waterfall in a fresh, secluded valley–and the arrangement of Debussy’s “Minstrels” for violin and piano shows Thibaud had a rascally sense of humor, as well.

4. Don’t worry about the age of the performances. The sound quality never gets in the way of enjoyment. [October, 2015: Upon consideration I have to admit that there are a few–but not many–performances which are so badly recorded that we cannot listen to them with pleasure; they are all recordings of pieces that Cortot recorded again, with better sound.] I admit that there are some recordings for which we have to make allowances. In the 1920s and 1930s producers didn’t seem to think it was important to get good orchestras to back up great soloists in concerto performances, and the early concerto recordings here sound a bit as if the orchestra musicians are meeting each other for the first time. There are also the performances where Cortot conducts, which are fascinating documents but which nobody would listen to as a first choice. The Brandenburg Concerti, while supremely musical, offer interpretations that are antediluvian in outlook, with huge slowdowns at the cadences–the end of the first movement of the Fifth does not so much resemble a conclusion as it does the implosion of a block of apartment houses. But then, just before that, Cortot does a performance of the cadenza which, though it sounds more like ‘Jardins sous la Pluie’ than Bach, brings tears to my eyes with its beauty and intensity of emotion. At the least you can play these performances to amuse your friends at parties. At the other chronological end, the last three discs, with the master classes on the Beethoven sonatas, once again give hyper-romantic performances of (mostly bits of) Beethoven that will please nobody, but the point of these discs is to hear Cortot talk about the music. No translations but anyone with high-school French should be able to get the gist. In any case he doesn’t seem to be saying anything profound but it’s a nice reminder that Cortot was, among other things, a pedagogue, and though I would not have wanted to purchase these last three discs by themselves, they comprise a nice lagniappe.

There’s plenty more to say but I don’t feel the need to deprive the prospective purchaser of discovering unexpected pleasures on his/her own. All I have to say is, don’t hesitate, especially at this price.

9 Comments

  1. When I listen to this music is like I watching to a black and white movie on a 4K wide screen TV. Sometimes going back is a pleasure. Thank you for upload.

  2. Wow! I think so many people have waited for this bosxet to to be issued! Until now we had only the 7cds EMI collection (I wonder if everything included there are in this new bosxet).
    Thanks alot and have a great week!

  3. I have enjoyed his EMI Icon box set. I cannot wait to listen to this comprehensive collection. Many thanks Whatever!

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