William Kapell was born in New York on 20th September
1922. He had a brilliant career ahead of him which was cut short when
he died in an air accident in 1951. He toured extensively, and recorded
some of his wide repertoire for RCA. Much of this has been made available
on record and CD, such is the interest in him as an artist who might
have become so much more.
This compilation of significant pieces of his repertoire
is therefore most welcome (or so I thought when I first received it).
Having heard some of the earlier pirated recordings of his works in
excerable sound quality, including earlier releases on RCA, I was quite
looking forward to hearing this release, as remastering techniques have
improved over the years, and, after all, most of Kapell's recordings
were made in the late 40s, and therefore should not be too bad.
I have to relate that this issue is a relative disaster.
It is not unlistenable, but the remastered sound is so bad, that I found
it quite impossible to get any real anjoyment out of it. Initially,
I was looking for background noises to be reduced over earlier releases,
and so they were, quite substantially so, but at the expense of the
sound quality. There has been so much filtering of the sound that what
we have here is certainly not an example of William Kapell at his best.
The quality of the playing is still there of course, and more interesting
to listen to than many other artists. What a pianist we would have had
if he had not died tragically, so young. And what a wonderful issue
this would have been if the remastering had been done with more sensitivity.
Come on Naxos, show us what you can do with this repertoire.
On some of the solo recordings, not only is there an
extreme dulling of the sound, but there is also a buzzing on the louder
notes which, on headphones is quite impossible for enjoyment. If we
also listen not too carefully to the Chopin, albeit beautifully played,
there is the unmistakeable swish of a very noisy 33rpm pressing. RCA
needs some help in preparing very important historical issues such as
I have concentrated on the sound quality rather than
the works themselves, as in this case, I believe that this factor is
by far the most important, and even with the double album being made
available at its low price, value for money in this instance is way
down. The orchestral works are less of a problem, as the colour of the
orchestra helps to mitigate the dullness of the piano tone, but still,
the removal of background noise seeme to be the most imprtant factor
for the engineers.
This set will, however, allow you to collect the well
known recording of the Khachaturian Piano Concerto with Koussevitsky,
long held as a benchmark in this work (with the other famous early performance
of the work by Moura Lympany (LPO/Anatole Fistoulari) complete with
optional musical saw in the slow movement. You also get the Rachmaninov
Paganini Rhapsody, recorded in 1951 with Reiner and the Chicago
Symphony. Both are well worth hearing. The Rachamaninov performance
seems to have escaped the engineer's controls - more than likely due
to the intrinsically superior quality of the original. The Beethoven
Piano Concerto No. 2, recorded in 1948, is the least successful of the
orchestral recordings but still is not too bad if you can stand the
dull tone of the recording.
The solo works are all played with Kapell's usual aplomb
and the recording of the Shostakovich Preludes is an interesting inclusion
as they were quite rare in the recording studios in 1945. Again superb
performances ruined by poor remastering.
The Schubert items, although largely miniatures, have
a care applied to them which makes one realise that although miniatures,
these are still very much worth having. When played like this, clear,
concise and very delicately, they are intimately in touch with the essential