P1285. VASSILY SAPELLNIKOFF: Tchaikowsky, Glinka, Liadov, Liszt, Alabiev-Liszt, Brahms, Mendelssohn & Sapellnikoff - recorded 1923-24, Vocalion; JOSEF LHÉVINNE: Chopin, Beethoven, Schumann & Johann Strauss - recorded 1920-36, Pathé & Victor. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL 78-702. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Sapellnikoff was born in Odessa and studied at the Odessa Conservatory under Louis Brassin and Sophie Menter, and became professor of piano at Moscow Conservatory in 1897. He eventually moved to Leipzig and finally settled in Munich. He toured with Tchaikovsky in Germany, France and England, and at his début in Hamburg in 1888, he played Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto #1 in b flat minor with the composer conducting. This concert was a great success and a catalyst for his budding career as a concert pianist in Western Europe. He was the first to play this concerto in England and was the dedicatée of a piano piece by Tchaikovsky
Tchaikovsky wrote about him affectionately in his letters to his brother Modest, in terms such as: ‘Since the time of Kotek I have never loved anyone so warmly as him’. Because they spent so much time together on these tours, it is often asserted that he and Tchaikovsky were lovers.
Sapellnikoff first appeared in England in 1889 playing the Tchaikovsky concerto at a Royal Philharmonic concert, under the composer's baton. He became a favourite at Philharmonic concerts, and created a furor in 1892 by his performance of Liszt's E flat Concerto, accepting a second engagement for the same season. In 1902 he delivered the first performance in England of Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto. In December 1912 he gave the Chopin e minor Concerto, under Percy Pitt; in January 1914 the Rachmaninoff again, under Willem Mengelberg; in November 1914 the Liszt A major Concerto, under Thomas Beecham, a performance repeated in January 1915; and the Second Suite by Rachmaninoff (for two pianofortes) with Simeon Rumschisky in December 1915. He performed the Rachmaninoff again for the RPO with Landon Ronald in January 1923.
In England he amazed George Bernard Shaw with his playing of the octave left-hand passages in Chopin's Polonaise in A flat Heroic. Shaw referred to his left-hand playing as ‘a marvel even among right hands for delicacy of touch and independence and swiftness of action’.
Between 1897 and 1899 he was a professor at the Moscow Conservatory, where his students included Nikolai Medtner."
- Z. D. Akron
"Lhévinne had elegance, and he could move listeners to tears by the sheer beauty of his tone."
- Arthur Rubinstein
“Though his modest personality offstage defied that of the typical virtuoso, Josef Lhévinne nonetheless won the admiration of fellow artists, and of those audiences who heard him in one of his absorbing piano recitals. While possessed of an immense technique, he applied his brilliance to the service of the repertory he played and avoided the musical distortions of other similarly gifted players. Lhévinne's retiring personality was fortified by the encouragement of his pianist wife, Rosina, who insisted that their two-piano performances include solo works from her husband. Lhévinne's recordings were few in number but are treasured as souvenirs of a Golden Age of keyboard artistry.
At 14, Lhévinne made his formal début performing Beethoven's ‘Emperor’ Concerto under the direction of Anton Rubinstein, and in 1891 he received his diploma with highest honors. During a subsequent concert tour, Lhévinne was approached by Rubinstein who offered to teach him privately. After a period of concentrated study, Lhévinne entered the Rubinstein Prize competition and took first place.
In 1898, Lhévinne married Rosina Bessie, five years younger and also an already accomplished pianist. Feeling that a two-career marriage was too fraught with risk, Rosina limited her subsequent appearances to joint recitals with her husband, initially at modest venues. A charity performance, arranged by César Cui, won such positive response that the couple subsequently resolved to pursue a schedule of two-piano concerts and did so to great acclaim.
Several years of teaching in Tbilisi brought on feelings of stagnation and the Lhévinnes traveled to Berlin under the most impecunious circumstances. After encountering many of the day's most prominent musicians (Hofmann, Leschetizky, Godowsky, and the conductor Artur Nikisch among them), Josef was appointed the head of a conservatory and continued with his concert appearances. The couple later returned to Russia where Josef accepted a teaching position with the Moscow Conservatory (1902 - 1906).
In 1905, Lhévinne was urged to go to America, but the disappearance of his impresario nearly left him stranded. Just before he was about to return to Russia, however, an invitation came to perform with the Russian Symphony Orchestra. Accompanied by his first conservatory teacher, Safonov, Lhévinne played impressively and won both outstanding reviews and a firm contract for an American concert tour the following year. Until the outbreak of WWI, which found him interned with his wife in Berlin,
In 1919, the couple came back to America and, in 1924, they both joined the Juilliard Graduate School, later the Juilliard School of Music. Lhévinne's reputation as a pedagogue grew to match his ranking as one of the greatest pianists of the recording era.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“Each of these disks, from Canadian engineer Yves St Laurent… [feature] St Laurent’s natural transfer – made without filtering, like all his dubbings – it is easy to listen to, despite the surface noise.”
- Tully Potter, CLASSICAL RECORD QUARTERLY, Summer, 2011