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ClassicsOnline Home » DELIUS: Piano Concerto / RAVEL: Jeux d'eau (Moiseiwitsch, Vol. 6) (1925-1950)
Great Pianists: Benno Moiseiwitsch (1890-1963), Volume 6
debussy ravel granados ibert poulenc delius stravinsky
Benno Moiseiwitsch was born in the cradle of Russian pianism Odessa, in 1890. At nine he won the Anton Rubinstein prize and after being told by the Guildhall School of Music in London that they could teach him nothing, he went, at the age of fourteen, to Vienna where he studied with the great teacher Leschetizky. At first Leschetizky told the young Benno that he could play better with his feet, but young Benno was undeterred and spent nearly two years in Vienna perfecting his art with the great teacher. His British début was in Reading in 1908 and his international career took him to every corner of the world.
This sixth volume of the recordings of Benno Moiseiwitsch consists of short encore pieces and a rarely heard concerto. Most of the French works presented here had previously been recorded by Moiseiwitsch in the acoustic era, and the time had come to make new recordings of these works by the sonically superior electrical process, as many of the works still featured in Moiseiwitschs recitals, either programmed or as encores. Moiseiwitsch had recorded the extracts from Estampes and Suite bergamasque of Debussy and Ravels Jeux deau during the First World War and by the time he came to re-record them around the time of the Second World War the gramophone could by then accurately reproduce the delicate shades and tones of his playing displayed in these impressionistic works. Whilst Jardins sous la pluie and both Toccatas show his impressive finger technique, it is interesting to note the almost non-romantic way in which he plays the famous Clair de lune with little obvious rubato and a steady pulse.
Moiseiwitsch performed the Granados Spanish Dances in recital at the Queens Hall in January 1924 and recorded them in December 1925. For some reason, however, the Spanish Dance in D major was not published at the time, and this is its first release on CD. In the same Queens Hall recital the programme also included a first performance of Poema Tragica by the Australian composer Roy Agnew and Menuet antique from Debussys Suite bergamasque.
The Etude in F sharp by Stravinsky was one of Moiseiwitschs favourite encores. He had previously recorded it in December 1917 but this was never published (all the more regrettable omission as it was to be coupled with Rosenthals Etude in Thirds, an arrangement of Chopins Minute Waltz). He played it throughout his career and was still playing it in 1958 as an encore to a concert in New York.
Selim Palmgren (1878-1951) was a Finnish composer and pianist who had studied with Conrad Ansorge and Busoni. Extensive tours from 1912 took him to America where he became a teacher of composition at the Eastman Rochester School in New York. Although he composed some large-scale works including operas, his main output was of short piano pieces. During the first half of the twentieth century his works were popular and were performed and recorded by Myra Hess and Eileen Joyce, as well as Moiseiwitsch, who had recorded The Swan, Op.28, No.5, at the same session as the unpublished Granados piece; The Swan also remained unissued. Birdsong, Op.17, No.19, and The Sea, Op.17, No.12, were recorded and published in 1918 and in a recital of September 1924 at the Queens Hall he played Birdsong and two other works designated new, Dream of Spring and Berceuse pour les curs blessés. The finale to the recital was the Strauss-Godowsky paraphrase on Die Fledermaus. The recording of this work made four years later is one of Moiseiwitschs best. The attributes needed to perform this kind of work Moiseiwitsch had in abundance, charm, elegance, wit, and an understanding of style combined with a technique of which the listener is never conscious.
On 25th September 1926 at the Wigmore Hall Moiseiwitsch gave the first London performance of two of Three Chinese Pieces by Abram Chasins that had been published in 1925 (the first, A Shanghai Tragedy, was less popular). Only five days later on 30th September Moiseiwitsch gave another lengthy Wigmore Hall recital programming Palmgrens Rococo, La vida breve by De Falla, his favourite Stravinsky Etude and two first performances in England, again of new works: Il neige by Henrique Oswald and Polichinelle by Villa-Lobos.
Another of Moiseiwitschs favourite encores was the Toccatina by John Vallier (1920-1991). Vallier had studied piano with his mother Adela Verne, herself a pupil of Paderewski, and his aunt Mathilde Verne, a pupil of Clara Schumann. After life as a child prodigy he became a composer and musicologist.
Most of the works presented here were, to Moiseiwitsch, contemporary, and had been written during his lifetime. Although thought of as new and modern, some of these compositions may seem today to be rather tonal and old fashioned, even for their time. Moiseiwitschs programmes from the 1920s are dotted with contemporary compositions, some of which may never have been heard since, such as Filèmes près de Carantec, No.5 from En Bretagne by René Baton, described as "an Allegro Moderato in 12/8 measure apparently inspired by pleasant recollections". Moiseiwitsch also played the modern Russians, Scriabin, Prokofiev, Medtner, Khachaturian and Kabalevsky. Another work he championed was the Piano Concerto of Delius. Before a broadcast performance of this work in May 1959 from the Festival Hall in London he commented on the work in an interview.
"Ive been playing it on and off for the last thirty or forty years and always loved it. But Ive sort of played it every four or five years, and this time I was never so enthusiastic, it gives me such a tremendous emotional kick. And I felt like shouting from the housetops that everybody must listen and I am annoyed that they do not have the Delius Concerto at least once a year. They have to wait until he is 25 years dead and now I suppose theyll have to wait another 25 years before they play it again. Its one of the most beautiful modern concertos the wealth of colour, the wealth of emotion, poetry
..I dont know of any modern work, and Ive told the same thing to my friends Rachmaninov and Medtner, and they were surprised because they did not know the Concerto. But just now, Im much more in it than ever before. Its an English work and Im ashamed that in England it is not played more than every four or five years. In America, my recordings have been a tremendous success, I tried to play it there but of course to them it is still an English work and has no money value, but here, that it should be neglected is a crying shame."
© Jonathan Summers
In 1997 Ward Marston was nominated for the Best Historical Album Grammy Award for his production work on BMGs Fritz Kreisler collection. According to the Chicago Tribune, Marstons name is synonymous with tender loving care to collectors of historical CDs. Opera News calls his work revelatory, and Fanfare deems him miraculous. In 1996 Ward Marston received the Gramophone award for Historical Vocal Recording of the Year, honouring his production and engineering work on Romophones complete recordings of Lucrezia Bori. He also served as re-recording engineer for the Franklin Mints Arturo Toscanini issue and BMGs Sergey Rachmaninov recordings, both winners of the Best Historical Album Grammy.
Born blind in 1952, Ward Marston has amassed tens of thousands of opera classical records over the past four decades. Following a stint in radio while a student at Williams College, he became well-known as a reissue producer in 1979, when he restored the earliest known stereo recording made by the Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1932.
In the past, Ward Marston has produced records for a number of major and specialist record companies. Now he is bringing his distinctive sonic vision to bear on works released on the Naxos Historical label. Ultimately his goal is to make the music he remasters sound as natural as possible and true to life by lifting the voices off his old 78 rpm recordings. His aim is to promote the importance of preserving old recordings and make available the works of great musicians who need to be heard.
All of Benno Moiseiwitschs 78rpm discs were recorded in England and released on HMVs domestic series. Because of the pianists immense popularity in Australia and America, some of his records were also issued by Australian HMV and American Victor, both of whom produced superior pressings to those manufactured in England. For the past twenty-five years, I have been on the lookout for such pressings and have used them in this series of compact discs wherever possible. Sadly however, many of Moiseiwitschs records were only issued in England and must be transferred, therefore, from noisy pressings. For this volume, I was fortunate in locating Australian pressings of Deliuss Piano Concerto and Ravels Jeux deau. Additionally, I was able to transfer Godowskys Die Fledermaus Paraphrase from an excellent American Victor pressing. The remaining selections were all transferred from multiple copies of English pressings.
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DELIUS: Piano Concerto / RAVEL: Jeux d'eau (Moisei...