> Benno MOISEIWITSCH - The Complete Acoustic Recordings [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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The Complete Acoustic Recordings
Louis DAQUIN (1694-1772)

Le Coucou

Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Jardins sous la pluie
Clair de lune

Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Berceuse Op 57
Chant polonais No 5 arr LISZT
Prelude Op 28 No 20
Waltz Op 64 No 1
Waltz Op 70 No1
Impromptu Op 36
Nocturne Op 72 No 1
Mazurka Op posthumous

Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Jeux d’eau

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Capriccio Op 76 No 2

Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)

Nocturne for Left Hand Op 9 No2

Selim PALMGREN (1878-1951)

Bird Song
The Sea

Jean Phillipe RAMEAU (1683-1764)

Gavotte and Variations

Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757) arr TAUSIG


Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Hark Hark the Lark

Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)

Sonata Op 24 – Moto Perpetuum

Theodor LESCHETIZKY (1830-1915)

Arabesque en forme d’Etude Op 45 No 1

Leo DELIBES (1836-1891)



La Jongleuse Op 52 No 4

Modest MUSSOURGSKY (1839-1881)


Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)


Fruhlingssnacht arr LISZT
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)

Barcarolle Op 30 No 1

Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

Concerto No 1
Songs without Words Op 53 No 4 and Op 19 No 3

Adolf HENSELT (1814-1889)

Etude Op 2 No 6

Abram CHASINS (1903-1987)

Flirtation in a Chinese Garden
Rush Hour in Hong Kong

Jacques IBERT (1890-1962)

The Little White Donkey

Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Liebestod – Tristan und Isolde arr LISZT
Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)

Rondo Op 11

Benno Moiseiwitsch, piano
Royal Albert Hall Orchestra conducted by Landon Ronald
Recorded London 1916-1930
PEARL GEMS 0142 [2 CDs: 144’16]


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Along with their set of the complete Wilhelm Backhaus acoustic recordings Pearl has now released the thirty acoustic items and one Concerto performance that Benno Moiseiwitsch recorded between 1916 and 1925. In addition there are some of his thrilling 1927 early electrics and a couple of unassailable discs from 1928 and 1930.

It would be easy in the welter of releases, not least historical releases, to overlook a set such as this. Moiseiwitsch releases, after all, continue to appear – later recitals, BBC concertos, his fabled 1938-44 recordings including his Rachmaninov, and others. But it should be noted that this is the first systematic and complete reissue of his entire acoustics and presents a pianist of the most formidable gifts, one of the greatest colourists in music, in comprehensively devastating form.

Moiseiwitsch was never seen as a superman virtuoso – but he had a magnificent technique, equal to almost all demands placed upon it. Throughout these two discs there is more than sufficient evidence of his tonal beauty, freedom, pliancy and flexibility of phrasing for a lifetime’s study. Added to which is an emotional impress, despite the poker-faced indifference of his demeanour, impossible to obscure.

In Debussy’s Jardins sous la pluie he is vivid, exciting and utilises colouristic effects to superb effect. Colouristic shading can once again be appreciated and savoured in his Ravel whilst his quick wit can be heard in a favoured composer of his, Palmgren. His control of dynamics – and of dynamic shading – is a significant part of his pianistic armoury; listen to the close of the Chopin Op 64 No 1 Waltz for a perfect example. The Weber Moto Perpetuum, a famous record, shows a digitally superior skill, timing, lightness of touch and his own recast ending. Textually Moiseiwitsch was apt sometimes to change detail – doubles for example in the left hand or employing interlocked octave passages – but this was not done superciliously as an act of self-aggrandizement. Donald Manildi’s notes call this practice a "personal signature" and I think it’s also true to say that Moiseiwitsch generally saw internal logic to his amendments – as here in the Weber or elsewhere in the E Minor Chopin Nocturne with his embellishments.

Moiseiwitsch had a superfine sensibility, with a truly sparkling tone, a pearly treble, perfectly balanced. In the Rubinstein Barcarolle his inflexions are marvellously apposite, his rhythmic bounce infectious but never inflated. That E Minor Nocturne is especially passionate, with quicksilver ornaments and trills whilst the Mendelssohn Concerto shows the pianist in perhaps even greater relief. There is some tremendous dexterity here and a caressing intimacy at the close of the first movement. The recording certainly doesn’t flatter the Royal Albert Hall Orchestra under the estimable Landon Ronald – horns and some of the strings having a bit of an off day – but it catches the soloist in unstoppably effervescent form.

He fused virtuosity and poeticism in his playing; a perfect balance and an equilibrium of means and manner pervaded his musicality. He could be infectiously wry (as in Chasins – very fast) or shimmering with affection in Scarlatti where he brings out, unostentatiously, wholly musically, inner voices. There is unforced eloquence married to singular, unforgettable beauty of tone everywhere on these discs. This tremendous set, presented in chronological order, in excellent copies, shows the breadth of Moiseiwitsch’s repertoire and his mastery of it. Listening to the pianism enshrined in them can only deepen one’s understanding not only of Moiseiwitsch’s art but of the art of the piano itself.

Jonathan Woolf

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