Recordings of May 1974: Delos Records: A New Classical Label

Chopin: Preludes, Op.28
Carol Rosenberger, piano. DED-15311.

Handel: Harpsichord Suites Nos.3 in d & 7 in g; Chaconne No.1 in G
Malcolm Hamilton, harpsichord. DEL-15322.

Scarlatti: sonatas, Vol.1.
Malcolm Hamilton, harpsichord. DEl-15321.

Szymanowski: Masques, Op.34; Etudes, Op.33; Four Etudes, Op.4
Carol Rosenberger, piano. DEL-15312.

Common to all: Amelia S. Haygood, executive producer; John Wright, Katja Andy, producers; Carson C. Taylor, engineer.

It is certainly cause for rejoicing when a new label appears that is dedicated to presenting fine artists not generally known, with recorded sound to enhance the performance. John Wright, producer for Delos records, has this philosophy and has kindly sent us four of their first five releases. The fifth will be a Schubert program played by Miss Rosenberger. The records we received were all well-produced, with fine pressings, good jacket photos, and excellent sleeve notes. Complete credits are given to the production staff on each jacket.

Mr. Hamilton has been heard on other labels, but not to the same advantage provided by Delos. His large Wittmayer instrument is a beautiful one well- suited for Handel and Scarlatti, and these full-blooded performances are somewhere between what we might have heard from Landowska or Valentl. Malcolm Hamilton has rock-steady rhythm and a fine sense for registration. When the lute stop is drawn in the Handel Chaconne, for instance, it serves a musical purpose and not just one for effect. The sound of the full instrument in the Handel suites is captured beautifully. Mr. Hamilton uses ornamentation judiciously, and comments on this in his sleeve notes. His clear fingering and his emphasis of the Spanish rhythms common to many Scarlatti pieces are a joy and a delight to hear. My particular favorites in this collection include the familiar E-Major Sonata (L.23), the C Major (L.104), the G Minor (L.338), the G Major (L.383) and the concluding D Major (L.415)—a brilliant display.

Carol Eosenberger's discs strike mo or, being rather less successful, probably because of the hard (although clean) sound of her Steinway. This sound is less offensive in the Szymanowski than in the Chopin; there is stiff competition on discs for the Chopin. The listener's approach must be a personal one as it is also for the performer. Miss Rosenberger is somewhat analytical in her Chopin style, which lacks seme of the requisite Romantic atmosphere.

The Szymanowski performances are the first American recordings of these works, and the Op.33 Etudes (dedicated to Alfred Cortot) are totally unavailable elsewhere. Miss Rosenberger plays them with flair and without pause, according to the composer's wish, and her clean technique is demonstrated in this music. The Masques are performed here with a less-lyrical but more-appropriate style than Martin Jones's interpretation for Argo. (And the piano sound and surfaces on the Argo leave something to be desired, too.) The Op.4 Etudes enjoy a sympathetic performance here also. Alan Barrody's sleeve notes are excellent, which they should be in view of the fact that he is both a noted musicologist and the nephew of the composer!

Overall, I would give Delos a batting average of .75 for their first group of releases. It is obvious that care has gone into the production of all of them, but I would hope for a better piano sound in future. In all cases, surfaces were silent and there was no distortion or mistracking.—William Marsh

volvic's picture

Quick search reveals that she has stuck with Delos and now actually runs the record company. Might have to seek her recordings out and research her a little more. Thanks for this.

dalethorn's picture

I checked her albums on Delos - this one I couldn't find. I did see that she has an album "The Bosendorfer Sound", so she apparently is flexible in her piano choices. The Delos site also has several demo, sampler, and "Engineer's Choice" discs, which are audiophile attention-getters.