> Benno Moiseiwitsch in Recital [JW]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856) Etudes Symphoniques
Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849) Etudes Op 10 No 4, 8 and 9
Etudes Op 25 Nos 2 and 3
Sonata in B flat minor
Barcarolle Op 60
Fantasie Impromptu Op 66
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Andante Favori in F
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881) Pictures at an Exhibition
Selim PALMGREN (1878-1951) West Finnish Dance
Live recordings. Unspecified locations. 1961.
PEARL GEMM CDS 9192 [2 CDs: 154.58]

Until recently very few of Moiseiwitsch’s live recitals were thought to have survived. The BBC has disinterred some Concerto performances – it would be good if they were to issue a cleaned up Delius Concerto – but Moiseiwitsch the recitalist remains relatively obscure. Two issues, however, are now worthy of the highest interest. Arbiter 120 releases recital recordings from 1954-60 – plenty of Chopin, Stravinsky’s Etude Op 7 No 4, long a favourite of his, some Bach-Liszt, Schubert-Liszt and a Wagner-Liszt Tannhauser traversal which usefully complements the pianist’s magnificent HMV recording of 1938. On this Pearl double CD set – a remarkable series of survivals from the latter part of his life – we have even more. As the notes explain these were made on reel-to-reel tape with a professional recording set up. The tapes Pearl has used are dubbings because the original tapes were then re-used. Inevitably we can hear some instabilities, flutter, wow and attendant problems inherent in the recording method – but otherwise the sound is lifelike and nothing impairs enjoyment. The tapes reside at the University of Austin, Texas and are dated from January to February 1961. There are at least four separate recitals here or parts of recitals. No locations are noted in Pearl’s documentation – presumably American college and recital halls.

As with the Stravinsky Etude so with the Mussoursgky - more duplication of earlier discographic triumphs though it would be idle to pretend that this is the impregnable giant of old. He had never recorded the Chopin Sonata in B minor and of Schumann’s Carnaval his 1919 HMV recording was unissued and he was never asked to record a note of the Etudes Symphoniques or Kreisleriana. The Schumann performances are the cornerstone of the collection; he was avowedly Moiseiwitsch’s favourite composer and the pianist often spoke movingly of him, so it is good to hear these recitals. His playing is more obviously vigorous and tempo-straining here, rather splashy and occasionally approximate than in his younger years – somewhat inevitably – but it’s still a moving document. The abrasive and impulsive Chopin Etudes are consistently reminiscent of his 1925 records – listening to the Op 10 No 4 C sharp minor Etude, for example, is to listen to a broadly unchanged conception, fleet, pearl toned, but also to note the rather muddied inner voicings and a fistful of wrong notes in 1961.

Nevertheless this is a distinguished release and it can fairly be said that no lover of so-called Golden Age pianism can afford to be without it.

Jonathan Woolf

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