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Benno Moiseiwitsch plays Chopin Volume Two
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Scherzo No 1 in B minor Op 20
Scherzo No 2 in B flat minor Op 31
Scherzo No 3 in C sharp minor Op 39
Scherzo No 4 in E Op 54
Barcarolle in F sharp minor Op 60
Etudes Op 10 Nos 4, 10 and 11
Etude Op 25 No 3
Ballade No 3 in A flat Op 47
Impromptu No 1 in A flat Op 29
Polonaise No 9 in B flat Op 71 No 2
Waltz No 14 in E minor Op posth.
Nocturne No 19 in E minor Op 72 No 1
Fantasie-Impromptu in C sharp minor Op 66
Benno Moiseiwitsch (piano)
Recorded 1929-1952
APR 5576 [78.17]


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Volume Two of APR’s Moiseiwitsch/Chopin series expands the chronology. The first covered the decade from 1938-48 and the second volume consolidates Moiseiwitsch’s recordings by including the four Scherzi – three recorded in 1949 and one, the B flat minor, in 1925. Similarly the Etudes here date from 1927, the Barcarolle from 1941 and other recordings later still, from 1952 – the latest of the recordings here, which cover over a quarter of a century of Moiseiwitsch’s Chopin playing. A colourist and romantic to his fingertips, with luminous beauty of tone and the ability to phrase across the bar lines, possessor of rubati of tremendous deftness, he was a Chopin player, even amongst a generation of inspired talents, of memorable distinction.

Thus the B minor Scherzo, recorded in 1949, has an assiduously rarefied reduction of dynamics as well as rhythmic brio, drama and poetry. The B flat minor shows us that his daring was an indissoluble part of his romanticism – there is a special animation here but one that is controlled by exquisite touch and by intellect. His colouristic primacy can best be heard in the final Scherzo, the one in E. In the Barcarolle he is fluent, lavishing great beauty of tone, though occasionally seeming – it’s a matter of degree – slightly rushed. Few complaints concerning his selection of the Etudes; if some see Moiseiwitsch as a slightly frivolous and superficial Chopin player the grace, esprit and drive he cultivates should act as an antidote. The 1927 performance of the first Impromptu is a real stand out and the E minor Nocturne is saturated with his translucent beauty of tone and his sovereign command of tempo rubato. What strikes one, as if anew, listening to this selection is the generosity he imparts to these works, the arching fluency of his phrasing and the tonal effulgence he lavishes throughout the unbroken span of these recordings.

As in the earlier volume the transfers have been carried out with considerable care and skill; the early electric Scherzo sounds well and the slightly later 1927 recordings are full of body (primarily I suppose because American RCA Victor copies were used in preference to the notoriously noisy black label HMVs). The Etudes are all the more gratifying to have here because they are the only Moiseiwitsch examples extant; other performances were rejected and remained unissued.

Jonathan Woolf

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