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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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The Great Female Pianists - Volume 3. Masters of the Piano Roll Series
Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler (1863-1927)
Reproducing Piano Rolls 1908-24
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Organ Toccata and Fugue transcribed Tausig [8.36]
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
Gondoliera Op.41 [4.21]
Love Waltzes Op.57 No.1 [4.17]
La Jongleuse Op.52 No.4 [1.24]
Christoph Willibald von GLUCK (1714-1787)
Orfeo –Melodie arranged Sgambati [2.48]
Eduard SCHÜTT (1856-1933)
Croquis et Silhouettes op 87 no 4 [2.36]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Scherzo in B flat minor Op. 31 [11.07]
Nocturne in C sharp minor op 27 no 1 [4.22]
Nocturne in D flat Op.27 No.2 [5.13]
Nocturne in C minor Op.48 No.1 [5.35]
Piano Sonata No.2 Op 35 [22.45]
Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler (piano)
Piano Rolls made between 1907 and 1920
DAL SEGNO DSPRCD 013 [73.58]

The Great Female Pianists - Volume 4. Masters of the Piano Roll Series Guiomar Novaes
Isaac ALBENIZ (1860-1909)
Tango arranged Leopold Godowsky [3.53]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Spring Song in A Op.62/6 [2.46]
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
Guitarre Op.45/2 [3.15]
Ignace Jan PADEREWSKI (1860-1941)
Nocturne in B flat Op.16/4 [4.20]
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Xerxes – Largo [Ombra mai fu] [5.40] MORET
Waltz No.1 [2.15]
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1895)
Nocturne in G Op.75/8 [5.00]
Benjamin GODARD (1849-1895)
Ballet of the Butterflies Op.69 [3.15]
Christoph Willibald von GLUCK (1714-1787)
Gavotte in A arranged Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) [4.11]
Giovanni SGAMBATI (1841-1914)
Landler (Tirolese) [2.20]
Theodor LESCHETIZKY (1830-1915)
Heroic Study Op.48/3 [2.26]
Jacques IBERT (1890-1965)
The Little White Donkey [2.03]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Prelude op.28 No.15 Raindrop [6.12]
Nocturne in F sharp Op.15 No.2 [4.17]
Berceuse in D Op.57 [4.29]
Etude in G flat Op.25 No.9 Butterfly [1.03]
Etude in G flat Op.10 No.5 Black Key [1.39]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Gnomenreigen Etude de Concert S145 (1844) [2.59]
Louis GOTTSCHALK (1829-1869)
Grand Fantasy on the Brazilian National Anthem [7.46]
Guiomar Novaes (piano)
Piano rolls made 1918-1926
DAL SEGNO DSPRCD 014 [71.01]


Earlier this year, I reviewed the first two volumes in Dal Segno’s new series devoted to the piano rolls of female pianists (see review). Volume three in the series covers Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler, whose rolls have also been issued in bulk by Pierian in a handsome two CD set (see review). Collectors will also find individual pieces have been transferred on some of the now increasingly numerous series devoted to rolls.
 
I usually write details of the roll systems involved but you can follow the links for further explanation should you be unaware of them. My strictures regarding these 1992 recordings still apply. They were made on a concert grand in an ample acoustic with a touch of ambient noise and what sounds like tape hiss. The piano sounds very strident especially in the treble, which is tiringly shrill and occasionally it sounds to go out of tune. I’m glad to say however that when it comes to documentation the dates the rolls were made (if not necessarily recorded) are now included, though these do conflict with the dates given in Pierian’s release.
 
Roll speeds are paramount and Pierian’s later transfers conflict with Dal Segno’s to radically different effect. The first two movements of the Chopin sonata differ by about 45 seconds with the result that her playing sounds very different. I’m not one of those critics who cares to produce exhaustive tabulated lists of timings but the height of this discrepancy occurs with the Bach-Tausig. Once more the difference is substantial – Dal Segno’s 8.36 to Pierian’s 9.15. The Dal Segno sounds, to be frank, unusually ridiculous, even by the mechanical standards of piano rolls.  Pierian’s transfers are much mellower, more house-bound than concert hall, and their piano goes out of tune at moments as well. But the results sound to me to be more musically consistent.
 
Bloomfield-Zeisler never made commercial disc recordings whereas the young Guiomar Novaes made numerous recordings and will be well remembered by many who saw her concerts, not least the many she gave in the late 1960s. She was in her early twenties when she made the first of these rolls, the last of which were released just as the system was reaching its end in production terms. Chopin and finger busters are here, as well as plenty of character studies. The problem with her rolls is the unnatural pedalling and the robotic, motoric deficiencies of the system as a whole. The rubati in the Chopin are piano roll-rubati, the Raindrop Prelude sounds especially badly affected, whilst the Nocturne is totally sabotaged by the myriad mechanical interventions. The two Etudes are somewhat better. The Mendelssohn is lumpen beyond words and can’t possibly reflect her playing of it. Fans of Ibert will note one of the earliest appearances of his White Donkey; admirers of the pianist can listen to her tub-thumping Gottschalk Fantasy on the Brazilian National Anthem.
 
Once more there’s a brazen hardness to the treble sound of the concert grand that begins to tire the ear rather quickly.
 
I’m really not convinced that this series is on the right lines. The 1992 transfers should really have been modified, especially the Bloomfield-Zeisler’s in the light of Pierian’s work. Piano Roll series by Naxos and Tudor have equally failed to convince me so I seem to be living down to my reputation with this latest batch.
 
Jonathan Woolf 
 

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