Landmarks of Recorded Pianism, Vol. II   (2-Marston 52075)
Item# P1353
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Landmarks of Recorded Pianism, Vol. II   (2-Marston 52075)
P1353. LANDMARKS OF RECORDED PIANISM, Vol. II, incl. Etelka Freund, Rosita Renard, Reah Sadowsky, Moritz Rosenthal, Federico Mompou, Mark Hambourg, Frank La Forge, Grace Castagnetta, Arnold Dolmetsch & Percy Grainger. 2-Marston 52075. - 638335207520


“It's two years since I reviewed volume 1 in this series. I started by laying out some of the background behind its origin. In 1977 the Desmar label issued an LP, produced by International Piano Archives, titled LANDMARKS OF RECORDED PIANISM, its aim being to accommodate some of the 'orphan' recordings of great pianists that were superfluous to requirements. That LP was Volume 1, but a follow-up volume never materialized. Marston's project is cast along similar lines. The notes in this latest offering offer a suitable definition of a landmark, stating that it's ‘... recognizable as conspicuously standing out, something that might be of interest due to notable features of historical significance’. The choices for what to include have been left to Gregor Benko and Ward Marston. Of historical significance, they illustrate pianists’ performance styles before World War 11, and the difference between their live and studio recordings.

Federico Mompou is substantially represented by eight items, set down between 1929-1944. With the exception of one, his own adorned arrangement of Chopin's Valse in A minor, Op. 34, No. 2, all the others feature his own compositions. I was amazed by the quality of tone he produces, a magical elixir of touch and pedal, where the diaphanous sonorities emerge with glowing radiance; surely these are one of the highlights of the set. There's some background hiss in the earlier recordings, but this is less discernible in the later ones.

Chopin's 'Heroic' polonaise was recorded twice by Ignaz Friedeman. The first in 1927 was noted for its swashbuckling exuberance. This later version from 1933, more reined in, was issued only in Argentina and is in better sound. The pianist visited Japan in November 1933 and early home recording apparatus captured four short pieces from the five recitals he gave on five consecutive days. The sound quality is very poor and marred by distortion, especially in the louder sections. Chopin's posthumous polonaise is incomplete. Friedman performed Beethoven's 'Appassionata' during this tour, but the logistics of capturing a work of this length on the primitive equipment probably proved too onerous for the amateur recordist. Nevertheless, we can't be anything but grateful for his endeavours.

A Leschetizky pupil in Vienna, Frank La Forge, originated from Illinois. His career gravitated towards accompanying, partnering some of the finest singers of the day including Gadski, Sembrich, Schumann-Heink, Anderson and Tibbett. Here he performs Gottschalk's Pasquinade (Caprice), Op. 59 in 1912, a delightful morsel with an infectious catchy rhythm. Rosita Renard is a completely new name as far as I'm concerned. The Monteverdi-Alderighi Madrigal doesn't hold much interest, but the Debussy Feux d'artifice, depicting a firework display over Paris, brims over the scintillating arpeggios, luminous trills and virtuosic chord passages. Lyapunov's Etude d'execution transcendante, Op. 11/10 'Lezghinka' in the hands of Reah Sadowsky has all the passion, fire and ferocity of Balakirev's Islamey. Eugène Arnold Dolmetsch, was a French-born musician and instrument maker. He spent much of his working life in England, establishing an instrument-making workshop in Haslemere, Surrey. His 1933 'Moonlight' was recorded on an 'original' fortepiano, said to date from 1799. Its shorter sustaining power achieves ‘the subtle effect of the tones melting into one another’ with the pedal held down throughout the movement. It’s pleasing to hear the Grainger items prefaced by a spoken introduction.

Of the two large-scaled canvases, Etelka Freund's 'Appassionata' is intelligently constructed, with a fine sense of structure and style. Each of the dramatic climaxes registers impact and potency. Her technique is secure throughout, and the slow movement offers some profound reflective contrast. Mark Hambourg's unpublished account of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto dates from 1955. He's partnered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Malcolm Sargent. The opening is a little too barnstorming for my taste. He's better in the slow movement, where he poetically sculpts the lyrical line. A rhythmically tight finale calls time.

I've derived much pleasure from this expertly curated set. It's worth mentioning that the sound quality is variable. Whilst the Rosenthal Edison, Friedman’s 1933 Tokyo broadcast, and the Dolmetsch item demand some perseverance, the rest provide a satisfying listening experience. Gregor Benko's superbly detailed annotations are beyond reproach. They provide illuminating cameos of each of the artists featured. This is supplemented with an array of fascinating black and white photographs. Collectors following this series need not hesitate.”

- Stephen Greenbank, MusicWebInternational

"Since the first volume in this series was released, voices have been heard asking, 'just what is a landmark recording anyway'? Various dictionaries and other reliable sources have yielded this condensed definition:

'A landmark is recognizable as conspicuously standing out, something that might be of interest due to notable features of historical significance'.

One person’s landmark is another’s enigma, so responsibility for the choices made must fall on the producers, Ward Marston and myself. Rather than simply using the designation Landmarks as a rubric for presenting orphan recordings, it seemed that choice of what to include also could serve historical purposes, illuminating themes and conclusions. Some of these recordings provide evidence for at least two important areas of historical inquiry and discussion: how differently did pianists play before the Second World War, and how differently did those pianists play in live venues when compared to their playing for commercial recordings?

In the notes for Volume One, I lamented that no publication remained definitive for long, citing as an example Rosenthal’s 1939 Chopin waltz recording we were presenting that had surfaced only after the 2013 publication of 'The Complete Rosenthal' on the APR label. Historical recordings of importance are still being discovered! Just months later we have yet another 'new' Rosenthal recording, and it is indeed important."

- Gregor Benko