Tedd Joselson’s Companionship of Concertos – album review!

Tedd Joselson’s Companionship of Concertos – “His Favorite Piano Concertos Up Close and Personal” is listened to and reviewed by Rachel Aragaki

Do we need ANOTHER recording of the Grieg Piano Concerto? Well, yes, if it’s Tedd Joselson’s newest performance on this just-released album from Signum Classics.

The album, titled Tedd Joselson’s Companionship of Concertos, is a quality addition to your collection. Joselson plays his two favorite piano concertos (Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, in addition to the Grieg) accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Arthur Fagen. Here is a brief clip of the rehearsal from August 2021.

Pianist Tedd Joselson was quite a hot pianist in the great old days of the RCA Stereo LPs. These recordings were known for being expertly engineered which brought the listener one step closer to that “live” in-room sound that most audiophiles and music lovers inevitably crave. Although Joselson retired from public performance in 1999, he seems to be happy and still playing plenty!

For those who have never heard Joelson’s early-seventies recordings, Sony Classical has also released a full set of his complete discs on CD. These digitally remastered recordings are all contained in a nice box collection of six CDs with a booklet.

1

Joselson, the Belgian-born son of an American father and a Belgian mother, auditioned for the late Eugene Ormandy in 1973, when Ormandy was music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra. After Joselson had played, the venerable conductor told him, “You just go ahead and choose your repertory. Anything you want you can play with us.”

Ormandy, like Arthur Judson (former artists manager for the N.Y Philharmonic), was so impressed with Mr. Joselson’s abilities that he decided to use his considerable influence to further the pianist’s career. In those early days, Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra took quite a fancy to him and, after hearing him, Mr. Ormandy invited RCA’s Peter Deliheim and Tom Shepard to Philadelphia to hear Mr. Joselson, whom they signed immediately.

PERFORMANCE

While acknowledging the catalogs’ numerous recordings of the Grieg Piano Concerto, Joselson’s rendition of the Grieg is superbly honest and abundantly sensitive.

In the first movement, the second theme of the “A” section drops all pretense but is rife with tension. Joselson stretches the tempo away from the orchestra without breaking the sense of unity, just enough to pull on the heartstrings. The “B” section is ethereal and dreamy rather than anxious, as it is often played by other soloists. Finally, the cadenza is quite textural and cinematic; it retains a sense of space, quietude, and solemnity without gaps in the sound and without dragging.

As for the sound quality, the recording makes you quickly forget about any aberrations in your listening environment concerning a perceived “natural” concert hall acoustic.

Forget about sitting in the audience at a live concert—listening to this recording makes you feel like you’re standing at the conductor’s podium. You can almost hear Joselson’s fingertips strike the keys and feel the impact of the hammers on the strings. Some listeners might find these effects a bit distracting, but many will feel like they have been transported to the live recording session, particularly if played on a well-balanced, high-definition audio system. The sounds are subtle and unlock the sense of immediacy that makes this recording so thrilling.

You’ll feel the proximity even more during the orchestral passages. The orchestral strings are very full, rich, and immediate. The recording displays most of the brass and winds instruments as they should—rather further back on the sound stage invoking fine depth while not cutting through the strings aggressively, while the pan and mix still give them good clarity. The layers of each section are clean and detailed; this would be a great recording for score reading (in case you collect those, too).

Joselson approaches the finale of the Grieg in a delicate, light style compared to many other standard recordings. Rather than a marching or stomping style, it dances gracefully. His performance is a fine example of music made dramatic without schmaltz or a “Mahlerian” heft. If you weren’t already a fan of the Grieg Piano Concerto, this is the performance that may convert you. The pretense and austerity are stripped away, leaving a raw but beautifully sincere sound.

The Rachmaninoff boasts a similarly, vivid and faithful sound quality. That super-clear mix draws attention to fantastic soloistic playing not just by Joselson but also the section players in the orchestra (why hello there, horns!). Because of the care in making everything audible in the final mix, the immense wash of sound that many listeners may associate with the tutti theme of the first movement is less powerful (though possibly more natural?) than on some other recordings—not everything can be perfect for all listeners!

With a performance that is equally thoughtful and electrifying, Joselson’s new album is a visceral listening experience for two of the most popular piano concertos of all time. This album is a must-have for all classical music lovers as well as the definitively enlightened audio enthusiast!

(Rachel is our newest contributor as well as an experienced musician and writer!)

Tedd Joselson’s Companionship of Concertos – “His Favorite Piano Concertos Up Close and Personal ~ CD $16.00 

Tedd Joselson’s Complete RCA recordings ~ CD $36.99

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