Playlist: The mastery of Gerald Moore

James Jolly Sat 13th January 2018

A celebration of the artistry of Gerald Moore

As Graham Johnson so beautifully argues in his Icons article (page 52), Gerald Moore was the doyen of accompanists (a status consolidated in our February 2006 issue when a group of leading song-pianists selected him and Benjamin Britten as the ‘accompanist’s accompanists’.) ‘There is no more of that pale shadow at the keyboard; he is always an equal with his partner’ the baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau wrote, and few collaborations left greater riches than that with Fischer-Dieskau which lasted for over two decades. Selecting a single example of their work together (which included all of Schubert’s songs) is hard but I’ve always cherished their Winterreise from 1955, a milestone in the singer’s long journey with the cycle but a fascinating comparison with the recording Moore made with Hans Hotter less than a year earlier, another remarkable approach and a terrifically powerful one. The two singers, one near the start of his career, the other mid-way through his, are strikingly different and Moore, too, responds to their unique visions of the piece accordingly. For insight allied to exquisite execution, the version with Hotter strikes me as the finer of the two (but only by a hair’s breadth). It’s easy to forget Moore’s work with instrumentalists and the four 78s he recorded with the violinist Josef Hassid are gems indeed; Hassid died at 22, a phenomenal player who prompted Fritz Kreisler to say ‘A fiddler such as Heifetz is born every 100 years; one like Hassid every 200 years’. It’s playing that takes the breath away and Moore is an exemplary partner. Listen to Elgar’s La Capricieuse and be prepared to be astounded. And just as Moore gave support to the young Hassid so did he for the young Jacqueline du Pré early in her cruelly curtailed career. Together cellist and pianist recorded a disc of short pieces, but the work (originally recorded for a Moore 70th birthday album) that really enchants is Fauré’s Elégie – perfection! Back to song, and for a reminder of how beautifully Moore assimilated different national styles, listen (through slightly ‘fizzy’ sound) to Falla’s Seven Spanish Popular Songs with Nan Merriman from 1955 (or indeed any of his Spanish collaborations with Victoria de los Ángeles). And a personal favourite to end: Schumann’s Dichterliebe with the Danish tenor Aksel Schiøtz, another artist with a short career, recorded in 1945. Heavenly singing, peerless piano playing.

Listen to the playlist on Qobuz

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