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Benno Moiseiwitsch plays music by Russian composers
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

Preludes: C sharp minor Op. 3 No. 2; G minor Op. 23 No. 5; B minor Op. 32 No. 10 (two versions); G major Op. 32 No. 5; G sharp minor Op. 32 No. 12;
Moment Musical No. 4 in E minor Op. 16: Lilacs Op. 21 No. 5
Nicolai MEDTNER (1880-1951)

Piano Sonata in G minor Op. 22 [15.29]
Fairy Tales: in E minor Op. 34 No. 2; Op. 42 No. 1
Round Dance Op. 58 No. 1 (with Nicolai Medtner)
Dmitri KABALEVSKY (1907-1987)

Piano Sonata No. 3 in F major Op. 46 () [14.44]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)

Suggestion Diabolique Op. 4 No. 4
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)

Toccata in B flat minor
Gayaneh: Sabre Dance
Benno Moiseiwitsch (piano)
rec. 1928-1948 ADD
Benno Moiseiwitsch series Vol. 7.
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110675 [79.21]

Benno Moiseiwitsch (1890-1963) was born in Odessa with its reputation for elite pianism. The ambience could hardly have been better for nurturing a sympathy with the Russian repertoire or at least that part of it that straddles the Imperial late-romantic (Rachmaninov and Medtner) and Soviet new realism (Kabalevsky).

I have reviewed previously from this series only the Naxos that included the Tchaikovsky first two piano concertos. It was the repertoire that drew me to this issue.

Moiseiwitsch was a friend of Medtner; one of a select group including Dobrowen, Wood and Legge who formed a Medtner circle. Moiseiwitsch is not a purveyor of gaud and glitter. From that point of view his authentic deeply sincere approach was a near perfect match for the composer's concern with the innate beauty of the music, its pathos and poetry rather than surface dramatics.

The producer is the redoubtable, indefatigable (and other warships) Ward Marston. Seriously though ... this disc is extremely well documented with full discographical details taken from Brian Crimp's Moiseiwitsch HMV discography and a helpful and personable note from Jonathan Summers.

The recordings were made over a twenty year period from ages 38 to 58 largely at Studio C, Abbey Road. Only the Prokofiev and the Medtner Ballade Op. 34 No. 2 were made at the Queen's Small Hall, Studio C. The Kabalevsky and Khachaturian were made during that period just short of a decade from 1942 when in both the U.S.A. and U.K. when the U.S.S.R. was a valued ally.

The Rachmaninov B minor prelude was a particular favourite of the composer and of Moiseiwitsch. Here is it presented in two alternative versions the second of which is preferable because ot its greater clarity - the first version recorded only two months before is more mistily suggestive. The Moment Musical is turbulently romantic and like all the pieces here is ample evidence for Moiseiwtsch's phenomenal touch encompassing whispering quiet and thunderous storms. Lilacs is impressive for its gently coruscating roulades of notes.

Moiseiwitsch neatly warms up Prokofiev's Suggestion Diabolique from gruff Mephisto morose to terse and exuberant dissonance-fest.

It is a great shame that Moiseiwitsch did not record more Medtner. The two men were close and the pianist's unglamorous sincerity seems completely in keeping with the composer's understated poetry, pathos and beauty. Of course there is some leonine galloping writing as well; as in the Tenebroso movement of the G minor sonata. Moiseiwitsch colours with flecks and flurries of colour the two Ballades. He is joined by the composer for the Round Dance which is half way between Grainger and Stravinsky at first then finds itself in more romantic waters.

The Kabalevsky Sonata No. 3 is pretty much in the same mould as the second and third piano concertos though not as memorably tuneful as those works. The Khachaturian pieces contrast rather surprisingly. The Toccata is not the hell-for-leather adrenaline chaser I had expected but has a slightly Iberan ediginess. It is controlled, full of carefully contrived variety - perhaps rather anonymous. The Levant make-over of the Sabre Dance is all you might expect as a roller-coaster piece of escapism but finds time for poetry as well.

Ward Marston has I think wisely left the whiskery regular surface noise of the 78s in place. Too much other treble information would have been destroyed to have excised it. Clicks, crackles and other audio damage has been elided.

Rob Barnett

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