Beethoven,Schubert,Liszt, Schumann, Mendelssohn & Schelling

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Liszt,Mendelssohn & Schelling,Schubert,Schumann
LABELS: Nimbus Grand Piano
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Paderewski
WORKS: Piano Sonata in C sharp minor, Op. 27/2 (Moonlight); Impromptus, D935/2 & 3
PERFORMER: Ignacy Jan Paderewski (reproducing piano)
CATALOGUE NO: NI 8812
Nimbus’s Grand Piano series consists of historic recordings made by the old Aeolian Company’s Duo-Art process of piano-roll reproduction in which the electric contacts recorded the action of the keys and pedals, though a question mark hangs over the reliability of these early mechanisms. These performances date from the Twenties, but Nimbus’s new recording of the original piano rolls produces a bold immediacy of sound.

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Paderewski was something of a superstar, lionised by the public as a second Liszt, but not so highly regarded by his fellow virtuosi. One of these, Moriz Rosenthal, curious about Paderewski’s towering reputation, attended one of his recitals and emerged muttering, ‘He plays well, I suppose, but he’s no Paderewski’ (!).

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On the evidence of this disc, his technique was more reliable than Rosenthal gave him credit for, but it scarcely merits the CD note-writer’s eulogies. His performances are erratic, delivered with scant regard for the letter of the text, marred by raggedness, rhythmic idiosyncrasies, unjustified agogic accents and masses of split chords, and they include the most wayward account I’ve ever heard of the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata. But the original process may be partly to blame. In any case, it’s a valuable historical document and, as I said, the sound is fine. Wadham Sutton