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The Orfeo Recordings

The Orfeo Recordings

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Carl Seemann – The ORFEO recordings – Carl Seemann was the kind of pianist who didn’t try to impress audiences with brilliant virtuosity. Instead, he understood the piano as his ideal medium for revealing a polyphonic structure on a single instrument. After his death on November 26th, 1983, at the age of 73, in Freiburg, it took some 25 years before the recordings of his studio and concert performances began to be re(dis)covered and today he is once again regarded as one of the leading German pianists of the post-war era. On the occasion of his 40th year of death, ORFEO releases this 7 CD anniversary box with all his recordings on the label and an additional booklet that highlights Carl Seemann’s artistic background and his pianistic environment.


Pianist Carl Seemann (1910-1983) largely specialized in the Viennese classics, and tended to shine more in collaborations than when under the solo spotlight.

His 1965 Bach Partitas, for example, range from workaday (Nos. 2 and 6) to sensitive and cultivated (No. 3 and No. 5’s outer movements). By contrast, his 1964 recital with frequent partner violinist Wolfgang Schneiderhan features congenial and inspired readings of the Bach E major, Beethoven E-flat Op. 12 No. 3, Mozart B-flat K. 454, and Schubert A major D. 574 sonatas.

The 1979 Mozart C major concerto K. 503 with the NDR Symphony Orchestra under Wilfried Boettcher is sluggish and heavy in the outer movements compared alongside Seemann’s 1950 DG studio recording, which wasn’t all that great to begin with. However, the 1972 E-flat K. 449 captures Seemann on fine form in a work he otherwise did not record. Here his energized and poetic solo work is complemented by Leopold Hager’s shapely orchestral framework.

Seemann’s boring and heavy-handed Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2 precedes a stylishly flexible 1962 performance of that composer’s Sonata No. 9 in E major Op. 14 No. 1. The 1952 broadcast of Beethoven’s Bagatelles Op. 126 is basically a sonically drab replica of Seemann’s engaging, vibrant, and better engineered 1951 DG studio version. As I listened to cellist Enrico Mainardi’s 1956 Bach Viola da gamba Sonata in D major BWV 1028, I was struck by how the pianist’s tone seemed unusually mellifluous and nuanced. Then I looked at the booklet, and it turned out that the pianist was Carlo Zecchi, not Seemann! No wonder! Yet the real Carl Seemann holds more interest throughout a 1973 Reger Sonata No. 4 than Mainardi, who was way past his prime by that date.

The collection’s final disc focuses on Paul Hindemith conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. They are not so polished as The Philharmonia Orchestra in Hindemith’s EMI recording of the Symphony for Concert Band, yet they bring more urgency and surface excitement to the fugal finale. The Bavarian musicians rise to the occasion in The Four Temperaments, where I prefer Clara Haskil’s limpid and sparkling fingerwork to pianist Hans Otte in Hindemith’s DG Berlin Philharmonic recording.

Considering that Berg’s Chamber Concerto was hardly a repertoire staple in 1955, Hindemith obtains impressive ensemble cohesion and discipline. Seemann handles the difficult piano part cleanly and securely, capably complementing violinist Wolfgang Marschner’s expressive agility. That said, Marschner comes more alive partnered alongside Paul Jacobs’ fleeter, more incisive pianism in a 1959 Köln Radio broadcast featuring Hermann Scherchen’s volatile podium presence.

At the very least I’m happy to have Seemann’s recital with Schneiderhan, his Mozart K. 449, and his more successful Bach Partita movements in my permanent collection, together with the Zecchi and Haskil selections. Christoph Schlüren’s annotations provide useful biographical information about Seemann and his career.

-- (Jed Distler)

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 7
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Orfeo
    • UPC/Barcode: 4011790260235
    • Item Number: ORF-C260007