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Piano Rolls and Discs – Selected Comparisons
Joseph Haydn’s Flötenuhr (flute-clock) – 1792 Allegro moderato–Minuet (‘Song of the Quail’)–Minuet–(Allegretto)–Presto – R 1164 85173
Joseph Haydn’s Flötenuhr (flute-clock) – 1793 Vivace–Fugue–Andante Allegro – R 1164 85174
Musical Box – Fra diavolo (Daniel-François Esprit AUBER (1782-1871) Ballade, with and without bells – c.1860
Musical Box – Santa Lucia (Neapolitan folk-song) – c.1960
Gustav Mahler Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911) – Symphony No.5 – 1st movement (excerpt) – Welte piano roll No.769 9.11.05
Eugen D’AlbertLudwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Sonata in E minor Op.90 (excerpt) (Beethoven) – Welte-Mignon piano roll No.2971 c.1910
Eugen D’AlbertFryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849) Study in F minor Op.25 No.2– Disc xxB 5731 1912/1913
Erwin NyiregházyFranz LISZT (1811-1886) Mazeppa– Ampico
Mr J. H. ClaphamEdward ELGAR (1857-1934) Salut d’Amour – played on the ‘Pianola’ and recorded by the instrument – Aeolian Company Ltd 1927 – M 0446
Percy Grainger - Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) – Spring Song – reproduced on the ‘Pianola’ by ‘Duo-Art’ Music Roll – Aeolian Company Ltd 1927 – M 0447
Edvard Grieg – 38266 Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) Norwegischer Brautzug im Vorüberziehen op.19, Nr.2) 14/02/30 – O-4748a Welte-Künstlerrolle von 17.4.06
Teresa Carreño – 38267 Teresa CARREÑO Kleiner Walzer – O-4751a Welte-Künstlerrolle von 2.04.05
Klothilde Kleeberg – 38399 Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849) Etüde F-dur [‘Die Quelle’ op.10, Nr.8) 2/04/30 – O-4748b Welte-Künstlerrolle von 11.11.05
Bernard Stavenhagen – 38400 Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849) - Franz LISZT (1811-1886) Chant Polonais – ‘Meine Freuden’ op.74, Nr.5 – O-4751b Welte-Künstlerrolle von 9.12.05
Theodor Leschetizky – 38843 Theodor LISCHETITZKY Die beiden Lerchen [Les deux Alouettes] 29/11/30 – O-4753b Welte-Künstlerrolle von 18.02.06
Enrique Granados – 38844 Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916) Spanischer Tanz Nr.5 [Andaluza] – O-4753a Welte-Künstlerrolle vom Herbst 1912
Edvard Grieg Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) Au Printemps – Matrix 2147F Paris, 2 May 1903
Shura CherkasskyLudwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Ecossaises (recorded at age 11) – Matrix A 28821 Camden, N.J. early 1923
Percy GraingerEdvard GRIEG (1843-1907) To Spring – Matrix W 98358 15/06/27
Josef HofmannLudwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Turkish March [from ‘Ruins of Athens’]– disc 15057 ?1928
Josef Hofmann – Turkish March – piano roll
Josef LhevinneFryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849) Étude Op.10 No.11 in Eb (Chopin) – disc CS89883-2 10/06/35
Josef LhevinneFryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849) Étude Op.10 No.11 in Eb (Chopin) – roll ?100375 1927/8 – a piano roll, probably Ampico, transferred to 78rpm disc 4022 D289 c.1945
Josef LhevinneNiccolo PAGANINI (1782-1840) arranged Franz LISZT (1811-1886) La Campanella – 63903 – a piano roll, probably Ampico, transferred to 78rpm disc 4022 D288 c.1945
Xavier ScharwenkaXavier SCHARWENKA (1850-1924) Polish Dance Op.3 No.1 (Scharwenka) – disc A 5260 30606
Xavier Scharwenka – Polish Dance Op.3 No.1– piano roll (excerpt)
Mark Hambourg Cecile CHAMINADE (1857-1944) Automne – on a Keith Prowse model ‘C’ upright piano – 5819 Bb 8063-1 Feb or Mar 1926
Mark Hambourg – Nocturne in F# major Op. 15 No.2 – on a Keith Prowse model ‘A’ upright piano – 5820 Bb 8064-2 Feb or Mar 1926
SYMPOSIUM CD1211 [79.37]



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This disc, whilst certainly entertaining (if somewhat eccentric) should be used in conjunction with an article in the International Piano Quarterly in which Ronald Smith discussed aspects of roll technology and interpretation. These were some of the recordings he discussed in what must have been his last published interview. Seen in that light the programme might not seem so arbitrary. We begin with the two Haydn Flute clocks (mechanisms fitted to clocks to play melodies at the hours) made for Counts Esterházy and Liechtenstein, which played movements from Haydn. These were recorded onto disc in 1931. The development of the musical box is sketched with a couple of examples before we move on to the heart of the disc – the piano roll, about which I think I’ve written far too much already on this site for my own well-being.

The famous Mahler 5 Welte roll is here – chaotic - and there are two examples of d’Albert’s playing; the first of Beethoven is a roll and is a travesty rhythmically and tonally, the second, a disc of Chopin, shows the unambiguous superiority of the disc as a medium if one discounts the nature of the associated noise. His phrasing is natural and pliant. Nothing mediates between the player and the needle; in a roll many things can and do.

We get Aeolian’s disc records of roll playing – Grainger playing Grieg and Mr J H Clapham playing Elgar and also the 1930 Odeon releases of historic rolls by such as Grieg, Carreño, Leschetizky and Granados. Another section of the disc is devoted to a miscellaneous group of disc recordings; Grieg again (an off centre and warped 1903 Au Printemps – pity a better copy wasn’t found) and a delightfully splashy Grainger plying To Spring in 1927. Maybe the example of a roll and piano recording, side by side, of Hofmann playing the Turkish March is pointed but it really does demonstrate the limitations of the roll system. Despite the obviously fine sound that can be derived from a roll it is – I can’t stress this too much – dead as a performance. Lhevinne playing Chopin’s Etude Op.10 No.11 similarly demonstrates that what sounds natural and flowing on disc sounds jerky and unacceptable on roll.

These are some of the areas covered on this "documentary and supporting evidence" CD. Typographically it’s a bit of a mess. Some of the recordings are deliberately faded, but not too many; not all are in the best of health. Read the article with this CD otherwise you may feel bewildered - though the notes do point some of the way.

Jonathan Woolf



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