A 20th-century counterpart to ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’ in a landmark recording, long unavailable, newly remastered and transferred to CD from the original tapes for the very first time.
Hindemith wrote ‘Ludus tonalis’ in 1942 while staying in the US as a refugee from Nazi Germany. The hour-long piano cycle itself, finds refuge from conflict in the reassertion of the time-honoured value of counterpoint, comprising twelve fugues and interludes framed by a prelude and its mirror image as a postlude. It’s a monument of modern keyboard literature whose forbidding reputation is belied by the approachable and highly varied nature of Hindemith’s writing.
There is a unique authority to this recording, made in October 1965 for the Philips label, by the Estonian-Swedish pianist Käbi Laretei. Having been coached by the composer in the cycle a decade earlier, she incorporated his performance suggestions and amendments to the score into her performance. She recorded ‘Ludus tonalis’ in a New York studio a few days after presenting it at Carnegie Hall where she had won over the audience, not only with her performance but also a question-and-answer session after the concert.
Having studied with Edwin Fischer, Laretei had performed throughout Europe for the previous two decades, becoming something of a celebrity. Her television debut on the BBC, had led to a series of programs back in Stockholm where she lived with her husband at the time, the film director Ingmar Bergman. However, she made comparatively few recordings: this account of ‘Ludus tonalis’ is her major legacy but it has never been made available on CD.
Käbi Laretei, piano
FIRST CD RELEASE ON DECCA
Recording Producer: Harold Lawrence
Balance Engineer: Robert Eberenz
Recording Location: Fine Recording Studio A, New York, USA, 19–20
Remastering Engineer: Chris Bernauer
Original Philips LP Release: 835 391
‘Its technical and scholarly attributes are happily partnered by humour, charm and a great deal of fertile imagination. Pianists who can solve Hindemith’s formidable demands have always had a great deal of fun playing ‘Ludus tonalis’, and a really distinguished performance of it can provide much enjoyment for the listener.’ High Fidelity, May 1966
‘[Käbi Laretei’s] fervent, committed, technically dazzling interpretation never has appeared on CD, and it deserves reissue.’ Classics Today