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Benno Moiseiwitsch - Volume 11: Chopin Recordings 1916-27
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Berceuse in D flat major op.57 [4:04]
Prelude No.20 in C minor op.28 No.20 [1:36]
Waltz No.6 in D flat major op.64 No.1 'Minute' [1:35]
Waltz No.11 in G flat major op.70 No.1 [2:16]
Waltz No.11 in G flat major op.70 No.1 [2:18]
Impromptu No.2 in F sharp major op.36 – American version [4:46]
Impromptu No.2 in F sharp major op.36- British version [4:35]
Nocturne No.19 in E minor op.72 No.1 [4:05]
Mazurka No.51 in A minor op.posth 'A Emile Gaillard' [3:03]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849) – Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Six Chants Polonais S480/R145 from op.74 No.5 - Meine Freuden (My Joys) [4:15]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Scherzo No.2 in B flat minor op.31 [8:59]
Impromptu No.1 in A flat major op.29 [3:46]
Waltz No.14 in E minor op.posth [3:15]
Etude No.11 in E flat major op.10 No.11 [2:16]
Etude No.4 in C sharp minor op.10 No.4 [2:03]
Etude No.15 in F major op.25 No.3 [1:58]
Etude No.10 in A flat major op.10 No.10 [2:10]
Polonaise No.9 in B flat major op.71 No.2 [4:26]
Ballade No.3 in A flat major op.47 [7:43]
Benno Moiseiwitsch (piano)
rec. Hayes, Middlesex 1916-25; Queen’s Small Hall, London, December 1925, 1927
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.111117 [69:08]
Experience Classicsonline

We’ve reached volume eleven in Naxos’s exhilarating trawl through Moiseiwitsch’s discography. This one is given over to Chopin recordings made between 1916 and ’27. Ten are acoustic, the last recorded in Hayes in 1922; the electrics begin with the Scherzo in B flat minor which was recorded in December 1925. We live in rich times for admirers of the pianist. Both Naxos and APR have mutually supportive reissue series on their books and the collector can happily select from an array of remasterings. Pearl put out the complete acoustic recordings a number of years ago in their typically rougher transfers – but the two-disc set did have the virtue of being a comprehensive collection (see review).
Moiseiwitsch’s Chopin is replete with an Old School compendium of personalised approaches. The famous desynchronised hands of course and, as I noted in my Pearl review, the somewhat cavalier approach to textual fidelity – at least when seen from a more purist eyrie. The E minor Nocturne has its full complement of Benno-ised embellishments for instance. And he certainly predated Earl Wild in his tinkering with Chopin’s keys – pushing things up higher when the fancy took him, though these things were generally done in good taste, if you allow him the indulgence.   The B flat minor Scherzo attests to the fact that even Moiseiwitsch had his splashy days. Those who may remember his performances and recordings at the end of the Second War will know how his playing had suffered after the unremitting demands of wartime performances, flogging up and down the country. But even earlier he could, like any artist, have his bad days. The Scherzo is an unusually error-strewn performance though for this early period. But the Etudes are beautifully accomplished and refined ornaments. We also have the luxury of two performances of the G flat major Waltz – one take was issued on HMV, the other on Victor - and the F Sharp Impromptu where a similar situation pertained to the British and American recordings. 
Half the performances in this volume are acoustic and half electric. Some have been remastered and reissued by APR, as well as by Pearl. Naxos’ work is that much more immediate and visceral than APR’s. It’s more open as well, with greater bass and treble definition. APR’s work is attractive but sounds confined and is less recommendable than Naxos’s. Pearl’s comprehensive set includes all the acoustics but obviously not the electric recordings and doesn’t include both acoustic takes of the Waltz and Impromptu. Their steelier work is altogether more astringent and is actually less immediate than the Naxos – to which company I recommend you for this glittering, idiosyncratic, aristocratic and wilfully wonderful selection.
Jonathan Woolf


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