Sound Recording Reviews in Brief

By Galo, Gary A. | ARSC Journal, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

Sound Recording Reviews in Brief


Galo, Gary A., ARSC Journal


APR has released one of the most significant piano collections in recent memory--Moriz Rosenthal--The Complete Recordings (APR 7503; a complete contents listing can be found at www.aprrecordings.co.uk). Rosenthal's recorded output is greater than many collectors will have known. APR's five-disc collection contains over six hours of music, including Victors from 1928, 1939 and 1942, laterally-cut Edison discs from 1929, records for the Lindstrom Group (Odeon and Parlophone) made between 1928 and 1931, HMVs from 1934-1937, and four Ultraphon sides from 1930. Several collections were tapped in order to include some of the rarest of the Rosenthal records. Only one Edison disc--two sides--was actually issued, yet this collection also includes eleven unpublished sides, held at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, NJ. Two extremely rare sides recorded by Okeh in New York in 1928 but issued only in Argentina on Odeon, plus one Spanish Odeon and two Japanese Parlophone sides were provided by Jon Samuels. The Stephen B. Fassett Collection at the Yale Archive of Historical Sound Recordings provided test pressings of four unpublished HMV sides from 1934. The final CD concludes with radio recordings made by the BBC and NBC in 1935 and 1937.

On records, at least, Rosenthal specialized in Chopin's miniatures, especially the Nocturnes, Mazurkas and Preludes, and what made his interpretations so distinctive in these works was his masterful use of rubato. The elasticity in his playing, and his sensitive and expressive phrasing, never descended into sentimentality. Outside of this repertoire, two recordings of Debussy's "Reflets dans l'eau" show him to be a master colorist, with fluid playing that never sacrifices clarity. Being a pupil of Liszt, one would expect him to possess a prodigious technique, amply displayed in works such as Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, with his own cadenza. Yet it is always his musicianship that first commands attention. One of the most impressive features of his technique was his mastery of legato, which he credited to his two years of study with Karol Mikuli, a famous pupil of Chopin. Nowhere is this "perfect legato," as Rosenthal described it, more in evidence than in his 1929 Edison recording of Chopin's Etude in C Major, Op. 10, No. 1, which he plays with the most sparing use of pedal. Unfortunately Rosenthal made only two recordings of large-scale works, both by Chopin--the Concerto in E-minor with Frieder Weissmann and the Berlin State Opera Orchestra in 1930, and his Sonata in B-minor recorded in 1939. The concerto suffers from an overbalanced orchestra, and while the Sonata shows him still in command of most of his powers at the age of 77, the opening themes in the outer movements are both played in a curiously detached style.

Ward Marston was responsible for most of the transfers and all of the remasterings, resulting in generally excellent sound. Transfers effected by Jon Samuels and personnel at the Yale Archive, on the material they supplied, have also been well done. Unfortunately the Edison discs, transferred by Gerald Fabris at the Edison Historical Park, are noisy, and Marston notes that these discs were recorded at a rather low level. Donald Manildi provided expert discographic assistance for the production of this collection, and the booklet contains informative notes by Jonathan Summers and Ward Marston. Moriz Rosenthal--The Complete Recordings is a major historical release that belongs in every serious piano collection.

APR has also issued Jorge Bolet--His Earliest Recordings, a 2-CD set that includes the contents of two LPs on the Boston label, recorded in 1952, and two Remington LPs recorded in 1953 (APR 6009; contents listing on the APR website). The Boston discs were originally titled Recital Favorites played by Jorge Bolet (B301) and Airs of Spain (B300); one Remington LP contained all four Chopin Scherzi (199-161), and the other a performance of Prokofiev's Second Piano Concerto with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra conducted by Thor Johnson (199-182). …

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