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The Complete Leopold Godowsky - vol. 3
Brunswick Recordings 1925–1926

MARSTON 53008-2 [3 CDs: 79:38 + 74:02 + 77:28]
Experience Classicsonline


This is the final volume in Marston’s edition devoted to the art on record of that most puzzling of great pianists, Leopold Godowsky. As before presentation is all one could wish for – the biographical essay and musical analyses, the discographical information and most importantly the transfers which capture the recording studio ambience and Godowsky’s tone very well indeed. Added to this the exceptionally well reproduced photographs and you have, once again, a class act, one that treats its material with respect.

The first block of recordings is the electric Brunswicks. They frequently revisited previous performances and offered remakes in better sound. And as so often during the course of this titan’s studio career the results vary alarmingly. His Rubinstein Melody in F (September 1926) is elegant and pleasing whilst his Chopin Waltz in C sharp minor, recorded the same day, is rather cursory and stand offish. Move forward four days and we find his Tchaikovsky Barcarole (June) is poetically inflected though a further three days later and his Chopin Etudes are less persuasive. One of the high peaks of his recording career lay in the two Schubert transcriptions, which have such delicious colouration, such moving delicacy (and highly elastic rubato) that they silence all doubters. The sheer poetry of the playing must come somewhere near the kind of performances that Godowsky gave privately and which all his confreres noted.

It wasn’t until relatively late in his recording career that he tackled large-scale works. These major statements were made in London for English Columbia. Schumann’s Carnaval is an impressive though occasionally serious-stolid performance, vitiated by a little rhythmic uncertainty early on. Godowsky takes the Chopin movement in a very unsentimental, cool, way and this is pretty much a touchstone of the performance as a whole; not objectified, not detached but slightly remote nevertheless despite the powerful final March. The Grieg Ballade on the other hand is one of the most complete statements ever made on it on disc. As with Andsnes’s recent recording of it – from which it differs quite considerably - the work takes on considerable stature when played with as much intellectual and colouristic control as here; and here I disagree with the sleeve note writer on the implicit status of the music. I don’t find it bombastic at all.

After the heights of the Grieg we find that the Beethoven E flat sonata, the Farewell, fares less well. It’s non-committal in the way that so many of Godowsky’s recorded performances of the central repertoire are apt to be, and seldom really demonstrates a definite affinity. The selection of Chopin Nocturnes however has moments of veiled beauty. The middle section of Op 15 No.2 in F sharp is especially beguiling and is spun with superb refinement. Then there’s the evocative and beautifully voiced C sharp minor Op.27 No.1, perhaps his finest recording of a Nocturne on disc. The B flat minor Sonata receives a characterful, digitally superior reading though Godowsky’s rubati in the Scherzo – like a coracle on a choppy river - are certainly extreme and a rare example of mannerism in his performances.

Talking of Chopin we have a rare survival from his final session, the one during which he suffered the stroke that effectively ended his public career. It’s the Fourth Scherzo, in E, and it is truly an amazing performance, one that should be heard by all who have an interest in Godowsky’s art. The first side is taken from a dub – and it’s in relatively poor shape – whilst the second is taken from the test pressing itself and is much better. Don’t give up when you first start because this is a titanic performance, full of drive, verve and tensile commitment. It must be close at least to the way Godowsky was heard in private, when his performances were said to be so extraordinary, freed of the shackles of studio or concert hall expectation. In addition to this there is a private recording from 1935 (it’s almost certain that it’s Godowsky playing) of a movement from the Java Suite. And as if that isn’t enough to whet your appetite there are three alternative takes and a selection of Godowsky compositions recorded during his lifetime – with one exception – by Saperton, Schiøler, Backhaus, Pouishnoff, Cherkassky, Gilels and Isabelle Yalkovsky. The exception is Saperton whose two Chopin-Godowsky Studies derive from an unissued 1940 Victor disc.

In many ways this is the most important of the three Godowsky volumes issued by Marston. All the big works that he recorded are here, in fine sound; the tremendous Scherzo rarity and the private Java suite extract as well. In all, though, this comprehensive salute to Godowsky has been realised with tremendous care and remarkable dedication.

Jonathan Woolf

CONTENTS

Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849):
1.Polonaise in A-flat, op. 53 [abridged] [4:41]
2 October 1925; (XE16482) 50075
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) - Carl TAUSIG (1841-1871)

2.Marche Militaire No. 1 [4:18]
7 October 1925; (XE16547) 50078
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)

3.Prelude in C-sharp Minor, op. 3, no. 2 [3:03]
September 1926; (E20014) 15123
Christian SINDING (1856-1941)

4.Rustles of Spring, op. 32, no. 3 [2:33]
3 September 1926; (E20026) 15125
Cecile CHAMINADE (1857-1944)

5.Scarf Dance, op. 37 [abridged] [1:42]
6.The Flatterer, op. 50 [2:15
3 September 1926; (XE20028) 50101
Edward MACDOWELL (1860-1908)

7.Witches’ Dance, op. 17, no. 2 [2:55]
3 September 1926; (E20030) 15125
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)

8.Melody in F, op. 3, no. 1 [3:17]
3 September 1926; (E20032) 15124
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849):
9.Waltz in C-sharp Minor, op. 64, no. 2 [3:08]
3 September 1926; (E20034); 15124
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

10.Andante and Rondo Capriccioso, op. 14 [5:40]
4 September 1926; (XE20045) 50131
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) - Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

11.Rigoletto Paraphrase [abridged] [5:38]
4 September 1926; (XE20048) 50131
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

12.June (Barcarolle), op. 37, no. 6 [4:15]
7 September 1926; (XE20060) 50101
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849):
13.Etude in G-flat, op. 10, no. 5, "Black Keys" [1:47]
14.Etude in G-flat, op. 25, no. 9, "Butterfly" [1:05]
10 September 1926; (E20080) 15123
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) - Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)

15.Morgengruss (Morning Greeting), from "Die schöne Müllerin" [4:33]
11 September 1926; (XE20092) 50133
16.Gute Nacht (Good Night), from "Winterreise" [4:46]
11 September 1926; (XE20095) 50133
English Columbia Recordings 1928–1930

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Carnaval, op. 9
17.Préambule [2:19]
18.Pierrot [0:58]
19.Arlequin [0:43]
20.Valse noble [1:01]
21.Eusebius [1:46]
22.Florestan [0:49]
23.Coquette [1:05]
24.Réplique [0:45]
25.Papillons [0:44]
26.A.S.C.H. – S.C.H.A. "Lettres dansantes" [0:35]
27.Chiarina [1:06]
28.Chopin [0:58]
29.Estrella [0:22]
30.Reconnaissance [1:48]
31.Pantalon et Columbine [0:58]
32.Valse allemande [0:52]
33.Paganini [1:08]
34.Aveu [0:30]
35.Promenade [1:30]
36.Pause [0:16]
37.Marche des "Davidsbündler" contre les Philistins [3:33]
28 and 29 May 1929; (WAX 4967-3, 4968-2, 4969-2, 4970-2, 4975-2, 4976-2)
LX 32-34
English Columbia Recordings 1928–1930

Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849):
1.Nocturne in B-flat Minor, op. 9, no. 1 [4:10]
23 June 1928; (WAX 3807-4) L 2165
2.Nocturne in E-flat, op. 9, no. 2 [3:56]
23 June 1928; (WAX 3808-6) L 2164
3.Nocturne in F, op. 15, no. 1 [3:50]
23 June 1928; (WAX 3811-4) L 2169
4.Nocturne in F-sharp, op. 15, no. 2 [3:20]
23 June 1928; (WAX 3812-4) L 2169
5.Nocturne in C-sharp Minor, op. 27, no. 1 [4:31]
23 June 1928; (WAX 3813-4) L 2170
6.Nocturne in D-flat, op. 27, no. 2 [5:32]
23 and 26 June 1928; (WAX 3830-3 and 3831-4) L 2171
7.Nocturne in B, op. 32, no. 1 [3:43]
23 June 1928; (WAX 3814-6) L 2167
8.Nocturne in G Minor, op. 37, no. 1 [4:08]
20 and 23 June 1928; (WAX 3815-6) L 2168
9.Nocturne in G, op. 37, no. 2 [6:20]
20 and 23 June 1928; (WAX 3809-1 and 3810-6) L 2166
10.Nocturne in F-sharp Minor, op. 48, no. 2 [4:22]
22 June 1928; (WAX 3827-4) L 2170
11.Nocturne in F Minor, op. 55, no. 1 [4:13]
23 June 1928; (WAX 3829-2) L 2167
12.Nocturne in E Minor, op. 72, no. 1 [3:47]
23 June 1928; (WAX 3828-3) L 2165
Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, op. 35
13.Grave – Doppio movimento [7:29]
14.Scherzo – Piu lento – Tempo I [6:28]
15.Marche funebre: Lento [6:34]
16.Finale: Presto [1:34]
25 April 1930; (WAX 5549-2, 5550-1, 5551-2, 5552-2, 5553-3, 5554-2) LX
124-126
English Columbia Recordings 1928–1930

Edvard GRIEG (1844-1907)

1.Ballade in G Minor, op. 24 (Variations on a Norwegian folk melody) [17:01]
27 May 1929; (WAX 4963-2, 4964-3, 4965-3, 4966-1) LX 9-10
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Sonata No. 26 in E-flat, op. 81a, "Lebewohl"
2.Adagio – Allegro [7:17]
3.Andante espressivo [4:06]
4.Vivacissimamente [4:22]
31 May 1929; (WAX 4985-2, 4986-1, 4987-1, 4988-2) L 2354-2355
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849):
5.Scherzo No. 4 in E, op. 54 [8:56]
17 June 1930; unissued matrices WAX 5624-? and 5625-1
PRIVATE RECORDING, ca. 1935
Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)

6.The Gardens of Buitenzorg, from "Java Suite" [3:14]
Appendix one; alternative takes

Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849):
7.Berceuse in D-flat, op. 57 [4:40]
10 April 1913; (36700-1) A 5597
8.Berceuse in D-flat, op. 57 [4:27]
10 April 1913; (36700-2) A 5597
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) - Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)

9.Morgengruss (Morning Greeting), from "Die schöne Müllerin" [4:13]
11 September 1926; (XE 20093) 50133
Appendix two; Godowsky compositions in contemporaneous early recordings

Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849) - Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)

10.Study No. 15 (on Etude, op. 10, no. 7) [3:27]
11.Study No. 47 ("Badinage," Etudes op. 10, no. 5 and op. 25, no. 9
combined)
David Saperton (piano) [1:29]
23 June 1940; unissued Victor matrix 051355-1
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

12.Etude in G-flat, op. 25, no. 9, "Butterfly" [0:57]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849) - Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)

13.Study no. 39 (on Etude, op. 25, no. 9) [1:07]
Victor Schiøler (piano)
1929; (A9435) Columbia 2262D
Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) - Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)

14.Tango in D, op. 165, no. 2
Wilhelm Backhaus (piano) [2:48]
June 1928; (Bb 13829-2) HMV DA 1018
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) - Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)

15.Moment Musical, op. 94, no. 3
Lev Pouishnoff (piano) [2:01]
1927; (A5393) Columbia 4830
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764) - Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)

16.Tambourin
Shura Cherkassky (piano) [3:00]
26 June 1925; Victor 45508
Jean-Baptiste LOEILLET (1680-1730) - Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)
17.Gigue
Emil Gilels (piano) [2:07]
1935; USSR 524
Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)

18.Alt Wien (Old Vienna) from Triakontameron
Isabelle Yalkovsky (piano) [2:08]
1929; Victor 4115
Leopold Godowsky (piano) unless otherwise stated


 


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