Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mozart : Piano Concertos 17 and 18 - Ingrid Haebler

There were a number of well-worn LPs that dominated my childhood listening. Richter playing Rachmaninoff, Solomon playing Beethoven and Haebler playing the 15th and 18th Mozart concertos on an old Vox LP that dated from more or less the year of my birth
She has never been up there with the greats - though Tom Deacon, rather contentiously, put her into the Great Pianists of the Century series. Haebler, like Nikita Magaloff, was a Phillips house pianist for many years, recording Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert (her foray into Chopin - the waltzes - is, well, odd).

Perhaps it's time to listen again to her playing. I think the photo does her justice - there's a merry twinkle in that eye. Her impeccable and meticulous phrasing is matched by an ability to catch the wit and wisdom of Mozart without making a fuss over the discovery.

The two recordings are twenty years apart. The 18th concerto is from 1961, and is a youthful Haebler (she was 32 at the time). The slow movement is a perfectly balanced whole - seldom has the transition from minor to major seemed so poignant. And her fermatas fit seamlessly in - I really like the one in the last movement just before Mozart mischievously slips from B flat major to B minor (listen out for it - the piano also slips into 2/4 time while the orchestra continues in 6/8!)

The second recording is from 1981, and is a affectionate reading of one of the gentler concertos.

Oh - I should mention that the orchestra for the 1961 recording is using some corrupt version of the score, with the horns playing their parts an octave lower than Mozart actually wrote it! This shows up the bassoons, but subtracts a beautiful glow from the orchestral sound. Still, it's a small flaw in a really enjoyable recording.

Mozart : Piano Concerto 17 - 1981
Ingrid Haebler, Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg, Gerhard Wimberger

Mozart : Piano Concerto No 18 - 30.10.1961
Ingrid Haebler, Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester, Joseph Keilberth

mp3 at 256kbs VBR - good sound quality from German Radio rebroadcasts


  1. Ronàn: Thanks for challenging me to overcome my extremely stupid prejudices and give Ingrid Haebler a chance. I have listened to the naysayers rather than her for years, and I am going to listen to your post in an entirely open frame of mind. I hope for a pleasant surprise, since, if I discover that I like her Mozart, I have a big box of the complete Concertos on LPs that I have never listened to --- because of those silly prejudices.

    Also, I didn't realize Nikita Magaloff was a Philips recording artist. I thought he was a fairly obscure and rather interesting, often exciting and unusual pianist; all of the stuff I have by him (not all that much, but all excellent) is on small labels. More ignorance on my part!

    Thanks for the never-ending supply of beautiful music.

  2. PS The Söderstrom Dallapiccola has been fixed. I hope. And reupped.

  3. I don't think they are stupid prejudices. She was deeply unpopular in the sixties and seventies, the era of the 'great artist' - Karajans, Horowitzes. She combined the fastidiousness of Gould with a lack of egotism that was directly his opposite.

    Magaloff - now there's someone I need to supply more of! His late recordings show him rediscovering his roots in pre-revolutionary Russia. Let me go digging...