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Great Pianists - Kapell
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 19A (1793-5) [27'24].
Franz Peter SCHUBERT (1791-1828)
Waltzes (1815-21)b – B, D145 No. 2 [0'55]; B minor, D145 No. 6 [1'07]; E, D365 No. 26 [0'38]; F, D365 No. 32 [1'01]; F, D365 No. 34 [0'47]. German Dances (1823/4)b – B flat, D783 No. 6 [0'44]; B flat, D783 No. 7 [0'44]. Ländler in D, D734 No. 1 (c1822) [0'59].
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1874-1942)
Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19c (1901) [31'08].
William Kapell (piano); cEfrem Kurtz (cello); aNBC Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Golschmann.
From RCA Victor originals. Rec. aCarnegie Hall, New York City on June 26th, 1946, bRCA Studios, Hollywood on July 3rd, 1952, RCA Studio No. 2, New York City, on April 23rd and 24th, 1947. ADD
NAXOS GREAT PIANISTS 8.110767 [65'17]



This is a lovely programme. The Schubert pot-pourri acts as the perfect bridge between the worlds of Beethoven and Rachmaninov.

The 1946 sound for the Beethoven makes the orchestra sound very thin, yet once Kapell enters all is forgiven. There is a real energy to his playing, coupled with the fact that the score seems to pose none of the usual obstacles for him. His fingers regularly perform miracles, as if the concerto was actually written for him. However, if there is anything missing it is a sense of play, of sheer enjoyment of life.

Modern listeners may find the slow movement rather 'old-style' - read self-indulgent - from the orchestra, yet Kapell plays with a great unaffected simplicity. If there is a disappointment (slight) it is the finale, happy if not overly dynamic. Yet even here cascades of semiquavers sparkle like crystal.

The separately-tracked Schubert items, in a rather intimate recording, are a continuous delight. The minor-key items have just the right mount of nostalgic weight whereas the first of the two B flat major German Dances is positively Lederhosen-conjuring.

Finally, Rachmaninov's Cello Sonata with Efrem Kurtz. Kapell is revealed as an accompanist par excellence, happy to be in the background when appropriate. The two players exhibit a real grasp of the first movement's structure. Perhaps Kurtz is a little anonymous as soloist. He is much better in the Allegro scherzando second movement. His cello sound as caught here is plummy without undue over-emphasis on the low frequencies. There are moments of great beauty here, too. In fact it is this very awareness of the nature of musical beauty that informs the Andante, which flows perfectly. Especially noteworthy is the wealth of keyboard sonority that Kapell finds. The finale is quite a varied journey that both players clearly enjoy.

A highly enjoyable disc, thoroughly recommended. All credit to Mark Obert-Thorn in his transfers - the Beethoven and Schubert from LP, the Rachmaninov from a set of 45s.

Colin Clarke

see also Review by Christopher Howell








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