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"George Georgescu in Prague" (II) - CD Review, 15th and 16th of January 2024

Today I propose to listen to recordings from the double album "George Georgescu in Prague", which contains recordings made by the Romanian conductor in 1952 - 1953 at the  lectern of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, a material published by Publishing Muzicală and officially released at the Romanian Athenaeum on January 11th. We have programmed a page by Richard Strauss - the symphonic poem "Death and Transfiguration" and Concerto No.1 in E flat major for piano and orchestra by Franz Liszt, with Valentin Gheorghiu as soloist, recordings of the concert made in 1953 during the Prague Festival.

As I said yesterday, George Georgescu owes his conducting career to Richard Strauss. On the cover of the new album there is a dedication that the German composer addressed to the Romanian artist. I quote: "To my dear pupil-master and friend George Georgescu, with gratitude for your artistic delectations in Bucharest. As a prophet of a glorious conducting career, already affirmed".

...A prophecy fulfilled. I won't go into biographical details now, I'll just remind you that George Georgescu was unparalleled in the repertoire of Richard Strauss - it is possible that the trump card of friendship revealed unknown secrets in the composer's laboratory. As we all know, the symphonic poem "Till Eulenspiegel" remains his signature symphonic piece, often performed as an encore in concerts without rehearsal. In Prague in 1953, George Georgescu performed another symphonic poem, "Death and Transfiguration", a score completed in 1889, offering, as one critic writes, "dangerous delights". Listening to this music one discovers an unparalleled tenderness in the portrayal of the dying man, an attention to detail so exquisitely transfigured in the pianissimo moments, then the explosion of vitality and élan in the struggle between life and death of the artist portrayed, a music of unparalleled romantic quality, vibrating at the highest levels. We also discover an orchestra that responds so promptly and volcanically and an unparalleled conducting vision that gets to the essence of the music. Richard Strauss's poem Death and Transfiguration, with George Georgescu conducting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra - I would say, the highlight of this album, released by the Muzicală Publishing.

At the Prague Festival, the Romanian maestro was accompanied by Valentin Gheorghiu, who performed two concertos - Liszt and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Sergei Rahmaninov. Let's not forget, the Romanian pianist made his debut in 1943 at the Romanian Athenaeum under George Georgescu, and in 1950, (he was 22 years old), he won the Prague Piano Competition. Three years later we find the two of them in the company of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, performing Franz Liszt's Concerto No.1 in E flat major for piano and orchestra in the Smetana Hall. What vigor, what brilliance and what quality of interpretation! The art of the Romanian pianist, beyond his virtuosity, brings that particular thrill of a poetic accessible only to great spirits, despite the slightly perished sonority of the instrument. Liszt's musicality receives in this version a nobility and a depth that makes us change our perception of virtuosity per se, so often attributed to the author of the Studies after Paganini, and not only in the case of the protagonist, but also of the orchestra, which accompanies under the baton of the refined, subtle maestro George Georgescu, in a symbiotic, perfect collaboration with the soloist. It is a version that combines an unbridled energetic combustion with the most subtle nuances of the poetics of Romanticism. It is a great privilege for us to hear these 1953 recordings of Franz Liszt's Concerto No.1 in E-flat major and Sergei Rahmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, with 25-year-old Valentin Gheoghiu and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Maestro George Georgescu, definitely a material that will remain not only in a project of the year 2024, but in a discography of unshakeable values of Romanian performing art.