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Jonathan Woolf
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A-Z of Pianists
With 863 page book with 300 biographies
NAXOS 8.558107-10
[4 CDs: 75:24 + 77:11 + 78:36 + 78:53]

Eugen d’ALBERT (1864-1932)

Scherzo in F sharp Op.16 No.2 [3:42]:
Eugen d'Albert, recorded c.1912
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Paganini Etude No.6 in A minor [4:24]
Claudio Arrau, recorded 1928
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Variations on a theme of Paganini Op.35 [7:42]
Wilhelm Backhaus, recorded 1916
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Etude de concert; Gnomenreigen [2:32]
Simon Barere, recorded 1934
Pyotr Il'yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Humoresque Op.10 No.2 [2:22]
Una Bourne, recorded 1925
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Ballade No.4 in F minor Oop.52 [9:25]
Monique de la Bruchollerie, recorded 1947
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) – Ferrucio BUSONI (1866-1924)

Choral Prelude; Rejoice Beloved Christians [1:55]
Ferruccio Busoni, recorded 1922
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Ballade No.1 in G minor Op.23 [7:35]
Robert Casadesus, recorded 1928
Cécile CHAMINADE (1857-1944)

Air de Ballet Op.30 [2:51]
Cécile Chaminade, recorded 1901
Pyotr Il'yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

October, from The Seasons Op.37a [3:21]
Shura Cherkassky, recorded 1946
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Etude de Concert No.2 in F minor La Leggierezza [4:02]
Alfred Cortot, recorded 1919
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)

Piano Sonata No.2 in G sharp minor Op.19 [10:05]
Samuil Feinberg, recorded early 1950s
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Noctuelles – from Miroirs [4:13]
Jacques Fevrier, recorded 1942
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) – Ferrucio BUSONI (1866-1924)

Chorale Prelude; Ich ruf’zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ [3:17]
Edwin Fischer, recorded c.1941
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Scarbo from Gaspard de la nuit [8:51]
Francois Samson, recorded 1947
Franz LISZT (1811-1886) – Ferrucio BUSONI (1866-1924)

La Campanella [4:06]
Ignaz Friedman, recorded 1926
Ossip GABRILOWITSCH (1878-1936)

Caprice Burlesque Op.3 [4:28]
Ossip Gabrilowitsch, recorded 1925
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Ständchen arranged Walter Gieseking [2:38]
Walter Gieseking, recorded c.1928
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Hungarian Rhapsody No.6 in D flat [6:13]
Emil Gilels, recorded c.1940
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Etude No.7 Pour les degrés chromatiques [2:12]
Jakob Gimpel, recorded c.1946
Ludomir ROZYCKI (1884-1953)

Waltz from Casanova arranged Grigory Ginzburg
Grigory Ginzburg, recorded late 1940s/early 1950s
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Morgengrüss arranged Leopold Godowsky [4:30]
Leopold Godowsky, recorded 1926
Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)

Irish Jig Maguire’s Kick arranged Percy Grainger [2:43]
Percy Grainger, recorded 1908
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde arranged by Franz LISZT (1811-1886) [4:31]
Alfred Grunfeld, recorded 1909

Two Sea Shanties [2:53]
Mark Hambourg, recorded 1928
Giovanni Battista PESCETTI (c.1704–1766)

Sonata in C minor [3:38]
Clara Haskil, recorded 1934
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring arranged Myra Hess [3:19]
Myra Hess, recorded 1928
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Tarantella from Venezia e Napoli [4:41]
Josef Hofmann, recorded 1916
Georges BIZET (1838-1875) – Vladimir HOROWITZ (1903-1989)

Variations on themes from Carmen [3:40]
Vladimir Horowitz, recorded 1928
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Siciliano from Flute Sonata BWV 1031 arranged Wilhelm Kempff [2:51]
Wilhelm Kempff, recorded 1931
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Berceuse in D flat Op.57 [4:17]
Raoul Koczalski, recorded c.1938
Daniel-Francois AUBER (1782-1871) - Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Tarantelle di bravura from La muette de Portici [9:07]
Frederic Lamond, recorded 1929
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Mazurka in A minor Op.17/4 [3:34]
Yvonne Lefebure, recorded 1950
Mischa LEVITZKI (1898-1941)

Arabesque Valsante Op.6 [3:25]
Mischa Levitzki, recorded 1938
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Frühlingsnacht arranged - Franz LISZT (1811-1886) [2:35]
Josef Lhevinne, recorded 1906
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Siciliano from Flute Sonata BWV 1031 arranged Wilhelm Kempff [3:07]
Dinu Lipatti, recorded 1950
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Prelude in B flat minor Op.28 No.16 [1:07]
Robert Lortat, recorded 1928
Nikolai MEDTNER (1880-1951)

Skazka in A Op.51 No.3 [3:26]
Nicolas Medtner, recorded 1936
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Alborada del gracioso from Miroirs [5:31]
Marcelle Meyer, recorded 1929
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) - Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Soirée de Vienne No.6 [3:29]
Aleksander Michałowski, recorded 1905
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)

Sonata in D L465 K98 [5:04]
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, recorded 1942
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Etude de concert No.2 in F minor; La Leggierezza [4:05]
Benno Moiseiwitsch, recorded 1941
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Ballade no.3 in A flat Op.47 [6:43]
William Murdoch, recorded 1927
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)

Moment Musical in E minor Op.16/4 [3:15]
Tatyana Nikolayeva, recorded late 1940s/early 1950s
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Etude de concert; Gnomenreigen [3:04]
Guiomar Novaes, recorded 1923
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)

Etude-tableau in E flat minor Op.33/4 [1:35]
Lev Oborin, recorded 1950s
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Etude in G flat Op.25/9 [1:02]
Vladimir de Pachmann, recorded 1907
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849) - Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

The Maiden’s Wish [4:20]
Ignacy Jan Paderewski, recorded 1912
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Légende No.2 – St François de Paule merchant sur les flots [8:15]
Vlado Perlemuter, recorded late 1930s/early 1940s
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) - Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Der Erlkönig [4:38]
Egon Petri, recorded c.1951
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)

Sérénade de Mephisto arranged Redon [2:24]
Francis Planté, recorded 1928
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1893-1953)

Suggestion Diabolique Op.4/4 [2:28]
Sergei Prokofiev, recorded 1935
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Nocturne in F sharp Op.15/2 [3:32]
Raoul Pugno. Recorded 1903
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)

Moment Musical in E minor Op.16/2 [2:56]
Sergei Rachmaninoff, recorded 1940
Johann STRAUSS (1825-1899)

Soirée de Vienne arranged Grünfeld [5:51]
Walter Rehberg, recorded c.1931
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Etude d’execution transcendante No.10 in F minor [3:45]
Sviatoslav Richter, recorded 1948 or 1951
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Hungarian Rhapsody No.11 [5:48]
Edouard Risler, recorded 1917
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Nocturne in E flat Op.9 No.2 [4:12]
Moriz Rosenthal, recorded 1936
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)

Navarra [4:34]
Artur Rubinstein, recorded 1929
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Liebestraum No.3 in A flat [3:47]
Walter Rummel, recorded 1942
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Piano Concerto No.2 Op.22 – extracts from the first movement [3:53]
Camille Saint-Saëns, recorded 1904
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 [9:20]
Jesús María Sanromá, recorded 1941
Pyotr Il'yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Humoresque Op.10 No.2 [2:30]
Vassily Sapellnikov, recorded 1924
Emil von SAUER (1862-1942)

Concert Etude No.6 – Espenlaub [2:28]
Emil von Sauer, recorded 1928
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

"Paganini" Etude No.2 in E flat [3:04]
Pietro Scarpini, recorded late 1930s
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Fantasie-Impromptu Op.66 [4:10]
Xaver Scharwenka, recorded 1910
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Rondo a capriccio in G "Rage over a lost penny" Op.129 [4:51]
Artur Schnabel, recorded 1937
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)

Danse Russe from Petrushka [2:39]
Leo Sirota, recorded c.1938
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Etude de concert; Gnomenreigen [2:58]
Vladimir Sofronitsky, recorded 1937
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Hungarian Rhapsody No.15 in A minor [4:20]
Solomon, recorded 1932
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849) - Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

The Maiden’s Wish [3:04]
Karol Szreter, recorded early 1920s
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)

Seguedillas Op.232 No.5 [2:41]
Magda Tagliaferro, recorded 1932
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Poissons d’or –Images Book II [3:20]
Ricardo Viñes, recorded 1930
Adolf JENSEN (1837-1879)

Whispering of a Gentle Breeze (Murmelndes Lüftchen) arranged Michael Zadora [3:02]
Michael von Zadora, recorded c.1930
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Etude de Concert No.2 in F minor La Leggierezza [4:18]
Carlo Zecchi, recorded 1928

If you’re a Mr. Gradgrind you’ll want the facts. So firstly the book – a huge, CD sized 863-page tome containing the biographies, by Jonathan Summers, of three hundred pianists including career summaries and a list of selected recordings. There are small postage stamp sized black and white photographs of the musicians as well. And secondly the four CD set that accompanies the book; all housed in a card slipcase – seventy-five performances by, of course, seventy-five pianists. They range from Aimard to Zimerman alphabetically and chronologically from Chaminade in 1901 to some undated recordings made in the early 1950s by Oborin and one or two others. The selected recordings start with d’Albert and end with Zecchi. There’s also a private recording made by Scarpini. The transfers are by Ward Marston.

So much for the riches in this blockbuster of a set – here are a few thoughts as I listened. Programming has been cannily, sometimes whimsically, often instructively done. Arrau and Backhaus for example are consecutively doing things Paganinian (Liszt by the former, Brahms by the latter). Petri’s Erlkönig sits next to Planté’s Mephisto which is itself programmed alongside Prokofiev’s Suggestion Diabolique. Some naughty discography-ransacking has been going on here on matters spectral and let’s pay it due notice.

As for the pianists themselves Barere is dazzling as ever. Bourne and Sapellnikov are both heard playing the same Tchaikovsky Humoresque a year apart allowing comparison; the latter’s Vocalions are well known and sought after but let’s hope that Bourne’s more limited profile can be elevated by her selection here. Summers is a big fan of semi-cult favourite Monique de la Bruchollerie whose Chopin F minor Ballade is indeed coruscating, and poetically tumultuous. Casadesus, like his compatriot, is given a Ballade as well – beautifully if less audaciously done.

As with most transfers the Chaminade will jolt those unfamiliar with the state of her 78s – clangy, twangy but the playing is joyous. Cortot is heard in a 1919 Victor and not a more familiar electric. Feinberg’s Scriabin is epic, Samson’s Scarbo eerie if slightly scuffy, the Gabrilowitsch was unpublished on 78 at the time and the Grainger is slightly rough but unusual fare. Similarly the Mark Hambourg is a very much less known recording – full marks for utilising it and not replicating his extant CD discography. Haskil is full of grace, early and again rare. Lamond is heard in one of his very best sessions from 1929 – leonine command. Lipatti plays the same Siciliano from Flute Sonata BWV 1031 as Kempff – it’s the latter’s arrangement. William Murdoch contributes one of three Chopin Ballades in the set – and it reminds one how astute and musical a player he was; an author too.

Planté naturally is here – indomitable at ninety-one. Risler’s 1917 Pathé sounds well and Rummel contributes a remarkable Liebesträume – extreme rubati, tremendous rush but mesmeric passion. And absolute beauty of tone. Saint-Saëns is here and so is Schwarenka; some don’t like the sound of his 1910 Columbias but I do.

Of course there are far too many great performances to itemise them one by one – these are just some of the more unusual or exciting. And of course one of the reviewer’s tasks is to moan at omissions, mistakes and how he’d like the thing better to have been done. I will say that it’s impossible to ensure absolute security in the biographical material. It was unfortunate that I started with Murdoch because there were a couple of bad slips. He was in the British Army in the First World War – he was in the Grenadier Guards – and I’m sure Jonathan Summers knows that he recorded the Elgar and Kreutzer sonatas electrically with Sammons and not, as stated here, Catterall. But such slips are minor when one considers how much immense ground he has covered. Reading some of the entries he’s almost certainly scoured old copies of Gramophone from the 1920s and 30s when leading artists gave their thoughts on repertoire and their own performances on disc.

I must make a comment on selection though.

Composer-pianists; Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff are here, so are Dohnányi, Gershwin, Saint-Saëns and Medtner. But where’s Bartók?

British or British based and Empire/Commonwealth pianists; there are an awful lot of them. Bauer, Bourne, Cohen, Cooper, Curzon, Davies, de Lara, Donohoe, Fowke, Frith, Hambourg, Hatto (too late for excision), Hess, Hill, Hobson, Hough, Howard, Joyce, Kentner, Lamond, Leginska, Lill, Lympany, Mewton-Wood, Novello, Ogdon, O’Hora, Roberts, Samuel, Scharrer, Shelley, Solomon, Tyron. Specialists will note no Matthay or Merrick. Now I’m an admirer of the British school or schools, the Liszt or Clara Schumann derived or the Mathilde Verne or Matthay or whatever but looking around at, say, Czech and Slovak players I found precisely two and you know who they are – Firkušný and Moravec.

The reasons for this omission must be several. Unfamiliarity with the musicians, the repertoire or the recordings; the relative difficulty of acquiring Czech discs (or Hungarian if you want to expand the omission); lack of LP or CD reissues sourced from collectors with a good range of relevant 78s; or simply the thought that these players are out of sight and therefore out of hearing. I’ve not had to scratch my head much to come up with this list of players who should have been considered and many included; Panenka, Rĕpková, Maxian, Rauch, Fuchsová, Štĕpán, Heřman, Paleníček, Klanský, Lapšanský, Leichner, Kvapil, Novotný. Of these it’s Heřman, the greatest Czech pianist of the first half of the twentieth century, who is a major and terrible omission.

There is also the question of what I’d term Naxos "house pianists" as well. Now fair’s fair and they’ve done a great deal to enrich the discographies – but haven’t Niel Immelmann with Suk and Lapšanský with Fibich as well? I’m thinking here of Austbø, Glemser, Scherbakov and Szokolay. Naturally Naxos will wish to salute their own but when one considers who’s missing it’s a problem.

Some players get more biographical space than others. Cherkassky gets a whopping four pages. Some are lauded to the skies – but surely Ernst Lévy isn’t so universally admired a figure as Summers suggests? For all the adulation there are many dissenters or agnostics, myself included. And some are rather taken apart critically – poor Leonid Kreutzer gets a bit of a mauling and I need to correct a misapprehension of Summers’s – one of his recordings has certainly been reissued outside Japan on CD; it’s the Spring Sonata with Alexandre Moguilewsky reissued back in 2001 on Symposium 1300.

Summers elides the unpleasant aspects of Elly Ney’s career too simplistically and the equivalence with Furtwängler seems to me misplaced.

Despite some critical notes this is a most important resource. The transfers as noted above are by Ward Marston and he ensures quality work, something that has been missing in some other recent piano releases from this company. For newcomers or those interested in the spectrum of a century’s pianism this is a fascinating collection and I daresay old pianophiles may find a nugget or two here as well, if they can keep off fighting amongst themselves long enough to enjoy them.

Jonathan Woolf


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