Clara Haskil is now widely regarded as one of the great pianists of the twentieth century, but it wasn't always so. She was recognized as a prodigy at an early age, but severe scoliosis as a child and a case of legitimate stage fright as a young adult, delayed her commercial recording debut until she was 52! These sessions for the Westminster label (a CD featuring Mozart's 20th PC and Scarlatti Sonatas is also available), were made three years later in 1950, and really launched her career. In the next eleven years, before her tragic death in 1961, she would go on to make memorable concerto recordings with Markevitch and Fricsay among others (see my review of the latter), and celebrated chamber partnerships with Casals, Francescatti, Szeryng and finally Grumiaux.
But enough about what would come, how about the performances on this disc. Recorded with conductor Henry Swoboda, who was also a part owner of the Westminster label, and the Winthethur Symphony Orchestra in Switzerland, Haskil's Mozart and Beethoven interpretations are light, graceful and straightforward. But do not mistake this for wimpy! While many pianists precociously decorate their Mozart and angrily expound their Beethoven, Haskil simply lets the music speak for itself. The result shows Mozart in a refreshingly serious light, and Beethoven at his most Mozart-like, which is also a welcome change of pace. The mono sound, sometimes a detractor, surprisingly heightens this fact. It is a great disc for sure, and those who don't know Clara Haskil's considerable talents would be wise to purchase this title while it is still available.