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Arthur Loesser (piano) (1894-1969) in Recital
Jan Dismas DUSSEK (1761-1812)

La Chasse
Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)

La Galante; Introduction and Rondo Brillant Op 107
John FIELD (1782-1837)

Nocturne No 9 in E minor
Muzio CLEMENTI (1752-1832)

Sonata in B flat Op 47 No 2
Adolf JENSEN (1837-1879)

Eros from Erotikon Op 44
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)

Prelude and Fugue in F minor Op 53 No 2
Joachim RAFF (1822-1882)

Rigaudon Op 204 No 3
Ignace Jan PADEREWSKI (1860-1941)

Légende Op 16 No 1
Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841-1894)

Bourée Fantasque
Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)

The Gardens of Buitenzorg from Java Suite
Max REGER (1873-1916)

From My Diary Op 82 Adagio in E minor and Vivace in D minor
Alfredo CASELLA (1883-1947)

Two Contrasts; Grazioso and Anti-Grazioso
Ferruccio BUSONI (1866-1924)

Sonatina No 2
Moritz MOSKOWSKI (1854-1925)

Valse in E Op 34
Edward MacDOWELL (1860-1908)

To a Wild Rose Op 41 No 1

Etude de Style Op 14 No 1
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Toccata in D BWV 912
The Well Tempered Clavier:
Prelude and Fugues in F sharp (Book I No 13)
Prelude and Fugue in B flat minor (Book I No 22)
Prelude and Fugue in F (Book II No 11)
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1909-1847)

Prelude and Fugue in E minor Op 35 No 1
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)

Sonata No 42 in D Hob XVI/42
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Variations on Kind, willst du ruhig schlafen
Serge PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)

Sonata No 5 Op 38/135
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Nocturne in B Op 9 No 3
Variations Brillantes op 12
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Gigue in G K574
Arthur Loesser (piano)
Recorded in recital at town Hall, New York October 1967, at Cleveland Institute of Music in January and June 1967 and at the 4-H Club Chevy Chase, Maryland in September 1964
MARSTON 52036-2 [2 CDs 78.59 and 78.41]

This is an enchanting set. Best known for his classic book Men, Women and Pianos; a Social History, Loesser was born in 1894 and studied in New York. Perhaps uniquely for a pianist he studied zoology – at Columbia – as well as studying the piano at the Institute of Musical Arts (later to become Juilliard). A Berlin debut just before the First World War was followed by a return to America and a domestic debut in 1916. He must have piqued sufficient interest even then because he was soon recording. Whilst violin admirers know him from his significant contribution to Toscha Seidel’s late 1920s and early 1930s sonata recordings Loesser had actually accompanied Maud Powell on her Victors in 1917. From 1926 he was associated with the piano faculty of the Cleveland Institute. Linguist, soloist, critic, accompanist, author, pedagogue he also had another distinction to his name; he was as witty as his half brother Frank "Guys and Dolls" Loesser.

What is preserved in Marston’s double CD set consists in the main of the 1967 Town Hall, New York recital and those from the Cleveland Institute of Music, of which he was by now Head of Piano. There is also a snippet from a Maryland concert a few years earlier. Some of this has been available before, on an International Piano Library LP, issued in 1972 and of real rarity now, but for most people this will be their first exposure to Arthur Loesser. His own programme notes are reprinted, including his famous Sic Transit Gloria Mundi notes for the Town Hall concert in which he disinterred some half-forgotten works. His announcements from the stage are full of urbanity and charm and, yes, that famous Loesser wit, qualities I’m glad to say that are gloriously reflected in his pianism.

Infectious brio informs his Dussek, the fingers in fine mechanical fettle, runs full of clarity and he follows this with another "Czech" work, Hummel’s La Galante. There is an effortlessly affecting lyricism to his phrasing here, before some strong and animated playing, full of fun and infectious liveliness, sees the work to a splendid conclusion. The Field Nocturne is simply ravishing. As if to turn the mood he programmes Clementi’s B flat Sonata and he is boldness itself in the opening movement, elegantly relaxed in the central panel and fiery and colourful in the finale. All these items by the way were played on a John Challis nineteenth century replica. It gives even more bite and sparkle to Loesser’s playing. His Jensen is romantic but virile and he makes the Rubinstein Prelude and Fugue – so seldom programmed it’s almost invisible – less clotted than it can otherwise seem whilst managing to evoke its ingenious romanticism. Loesser himself tells the audience that he learned Paderewski’s Legende from Stojowski, Loesser’s erstwhile teacher, and he "opens out" to optimum effect. He is as alive to the frequent drolleries of his chosen repertoire as to the more exotic pieces – take Godowsky’s The Gardens of Buitenzorg, from his Java Suite for example – languorous and exotically perfumed and played pretty much to perfection. He realises the two pieces from Reger’s splendid From My Diary with astute intelligence, especially the insistence of the D minor Vivace. If Loesser can’t bring off Casella’s slightly mocking homage to Chopin – the Grazioso – then frankly no-one can and he can deal with the Anti-Grazioso’s brittle dissonances just as pertly. Petri wasn’t the only pianist of that generation attuned to Busoni; listen to Loesser’s reflective, almost impressionist calm in the Second Sonatina and also to the mordant, reflective conclusion. I won’t intercede between Loesser and his programme notes for Moszkowski’s Valse – you’ll have to read them yourself and you’ll enjoy it. The encores are delicious. As is the whole of this recital.

The second CD is devoted to sterner stuff – Bach, Haydn and Prokofiev principally. In his playing of Preludes and Fugues – two from Book I, one from Book II – he reveals himself as a Bachian of the utmost discretion and clarity. All the voices are brought out, there are no obvious romanticisms or instances of significant over pedalling but his aesthetic does remain broadly romantic in feeling. His Haydn is alive, felicitous and witty – it’s a very small seven-minute sonata but Loesser lavishes care on it. He was well suited to Prokofiev; and the classicism of the 1923 Fifth sonata clearly appealed to him, as did its underdog status. Incidentally he plays the original version but for the last five pages where he utilises the 1953 revision. I admired the genial Beethoven but even more Loesser’s way with Chopin. In fact I admired everything he does as I do Marston’s excellent sound (pitch fluctuations on a few tracks are relatively mild). The booklet is splendid. I’ve seldom enjoyed time with a pianist more than these two hours plus with the impish, convivial, enormously talented Arthur Loesser.

Jonathan Woolf

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