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Teresa Carreño (piano)
Bedrich SMETANA (1824-1884)

Etude; Am Seegestade Op.17 (1861) [4.08]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Sonetto del Petrarca, No.104 (1839-46) [5.46]
Hungarian Rhapsody No.6 S244 (1846) [6.29]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Soirée de Vienne No.6 in A minor arranged by Franz Liszt [6.38]
Fryderyk CHOPIN

Ballade No. 1 in G minor Op.23 (1831-42) [8.18]
Ballade No. 3 in A flat Op. 47(1831-42) [7.31]
Nocturne in G minor Op.37 No.2 (1837) [7.25]
Nocturne in C minor Op.48 No.1 (1837) [5.55]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Piano Sonata No.21 Op.53 Waldstein (1803-04)[21.14]
Teresa CARREÑO (1853-1917)

Little Waltz [3.25]
Teresa Carreño (piano)
Piano Rolls recorded in 1905
PIERIAN 0022 [76.51]

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Venezuela-born Carreño was one of the most formidable and picturesque figures in piano history – not a field by any stretch of the imagination lacking in such personalities. Yet when one remembers that she married, successively, Emile Sauret, baritone Giovanni Tagliapietra, Eugen d’Albert, then Tagliapietra’s brother it gives one an indication of her combustible personality. Her rows with d’Albert were famous but the breach of decorum in marrying the brother of her second husband even worse for polite society. Pianist, yes, but singer too. The stories of her agreeing to replace an indisposed artist at short notice are too many for mere apocrypha. She certainly made her singing debut professionally in 1872 in Edinburgh and was a noted Mozartian. But beyond such matters it was as a pianist that she made he most indelible mark. She was a pupil of Gottschalk and later took lessons from Anton Rubinstein. After early training she toured widely as an increasing celebrity and was notably successful in Berlin and in Philadelphia amongst other highly discriminating centres. Arrau heard her in Berlin in 1916 and pronounced her marvellous; others, Grieg for example, tussled with her when she began to rewrite passages in his Concerto.

She never recorded though there were plenty of opportunities for her to have done so, given that she lived until 1917. What we have instead is a collection of piano rolls, some of them collated here by the ever-investigative Pierian in their Caswell Collection. They’ve released a number of composer-roll recordings and I was especially impressed by their Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler release; she, like Carreño was a pioneering woman pianist who never made commercial disc recordings.

Given the complexities surrounding the Welte Mignon and other roll systems, exhaustively detailed in previous reviews of Pierian and Naxos releases, one can only offer tentative analysis of her performances and how they may relate to her playing. Her Smetana – an unusual offering – does go some way to bear out Arrau’s remark that she was a goddess when he heard her in Berlin. The attack is glittering and there’s powerful Lisztian animation in this virtuoso playing. When we get to her Chopin however things take on a more problematic hue. The First Ballade is so choppily phrased that it’s impossible to believe that the roll mechanism hasn’t reduced her playing to mere caricature. The same is true of the G minor Nocturne, which tends to be paragraphal and to sport its fair share of idiosyncratic voicings. As with most rolls there are severe limitations of colour, nuance and dynamic inflexions; of dynamic variance there’s precious little here. The Third Ballade has a very intriguing slow and portentous introduction and has some idiosyncratic phrasing. The biggest work here is the Waldstein Sonata. There are some "cloudy" bass sonorities as transferred, though the playing has requisite energy and propulsion when required. There’s a certain literalness in the first movement, which contrasts strongly with the clipped chords of the slow movement. Implacable or mechanical? The lack of dynamics renders this rather one dimensional and some very odd phrasing leads one to wonder about the playing as a whole – or its rendering in this medium.

Nicely laid out the booklet goes into detail concerning Welte Mignon rolls. The transfers were effected via a 1923 Feurich Welte piano and recorded in stereo. They can give at best a very partial insight into her playing – but Carreño was a musician of major importance and we should savour the opportunity to listen to her, even in this imperfect form.

Jonathan Woolf

Carreño was a musician of major importance and we should savour the opportunity to listen to her, even in this imperfect form. ... see Full Review

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