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The Complete Leopold Godowsky - Volume 1: Columbia and Brunswick Recordings 1913-1922
see end of review for track & recording details
Leopold Godowsky (piano)
CD 2 tracks 13-14 are pieces written for one piano, four hands. This test pressing does not identify the second pianist, but it is believed to be Godowsky’s son, Leo.
MARSTON 52046-2 [78:03 +79:34]
Experience Classicsonline

In the light of my imminent review of volume three in Marston’s Godowsky series here is volume one; together with volume two (see review) we now have a collective cornucopia of his art on disc, an essential if sometimes frequently bewildering body of recordings for pianophiles.
Godowsky (1870-1938) asked not to be judged by his recordings. It’s one of the more perplexing facts of recorded history that a musician so admired by his confreres should have produced a body of recorded performances that so often fail fully to engage the spirits. Yet in private we know it was different and Hofmann’s injunction to Abram Chasins never to forget the private performance they had both just heard the pianist give might stand as a paradigm of the Godowsky quandary. And yet I wonder, to explore something contained in volume three, if Godowsky would have extended the stricture not to be judged had the Chopin Third Scherzo been issued. It derives from his final, abortive session in London, the one in which he suffered the appalling stroke that effectively ended his career. It’s incendiary – and so a double poignancy therefore attends to it.
But let me not anticipate too much. What we have here in this earlier volume is a body of recordings made by Godowsky for Columbia and Brunswick between 1913 and 1922 – all acoustics therefore. Brunswick asked him to re-record a number of things he’d earlier set down for Columbia so there are inevitably return journeys to such evergreens as Rubinstein’s Melody in F, Chopin’s Waltz in C sharp minor and the like. There are no large-scale works in this volume.
That he was, or felt himself to be, inhibited in the recording studio can be felt as early as his second published matrix in which the Paganini-Liszt La Campanella sounds studied to a fault – it opens with considerable caution – but then one hears Godowsky audibly relax and he brings a considerable amount of bravura to bear. The second half of the recording represents the less shackled aura of his studio playing; the opening part represents the constricted and corralled artist. His Chopin is very variable. The D flat Etude is formal and off-hand, the abridged Polonaise in A flat not especially distinctive and the Prelude in B flat metrically done and all too foursquare. One hears some over-compensatory left hand accenting in the E flat Nocturne – and this probably bears out Godowsky’s own thoughts on the acoustic recording process when he said that the left hand had to be louder than the right to sound.  Still nothing, surely, in the process could suggest why his Rubinstein Melody in F sounds so downbeat and dull.
Brunswick had the bright idea to cement their association with a piece by the pianist – his Humoresque from Miniatures and along the way they added other things. All these compositions sound vibrant and engaged, not least those performances believed to have been made with his son Leo. On balance though the Brunswick selection is just that bit lighter than the more highbrow Columbia – there’s the (at the time) unpublished Godowskified Star Spangled Banner arrangement and Bishop’s Home Sweet Home, similarly taken over by the Master. When he ventured to reprise recordings we find his Op.64 No.2 Chopin Waltz oddly dogmatic in 1920. In this respect it’s as well to note that the Fantasy-Impromptu , from a May 1921 session, is a cut above its disc fellows in control and eloquence, and one of the best performances in this two disc set. 
One should also be aware of Godowsky’s sometimes subtle, sometimes more extensive editorialising of texts – he does it to Mendelssohn’s Spinning Song amongst others. In that respect he was hardly unique. The best performances here are the less usual repertoire; playing these seems to liberate him from routine, from expectation and from his own inability to project beyond the studio. His own few pieces are terrific; the unusual Rubinstein Rêve angelique is also splendid.
What’s not debatable is the quality of the restorative work that is first class, allowing surface noise but equally ensuring that Godowsky’s tonal qualities are not stifled by treble suppression. There is full documentation as to matrix and release numbers and also as to those many sides that were not released at the time. Superbly done, as ever.
Jonathan Woolf

Track details
CD1: Columbia Graphophone Company 1913-16
Felix MENDELSSON (1810-1849)
1.Song Without Words in G, op. 62, no. 1, “May Breezes” [2:54]
10 April 1913; (36693) D 17713
2.Song Without Words in C, op. 67, no. 4, “Spinning Song” [1:50]
10 April 1913; (36693) D 17713
Nicolò PAGANINI (1782 – 1840) - Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
3.Etude No. 3, “La Campanella” [4:35]
10 April 1913; (36694) A 5484
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
4.Prelude in D-flat, op. 28, no. 15 [4:20]
10 April 1913; (36695) L 1095
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) - Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
5.Hark, Hark, the Lark! [2:40]
10 April 1913; (36696) A 5484
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
6.Polonaise in A-flat, op. 53 [abridged] [3:49]
10 April 1913; (36697) A 5550
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
7.Prelude in B-flat, op. 28, no. 21 [2:14]
10 April 1913; (36698) A 5485 
8.Prelude in F, op. 28, no. 2 [3:50]
10 April 1913; (36698) A 5485
9.Waltz in C-sharp Minor, op. 64, no. 2 [3:26]
10 April 1913; (36699) L 1095
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
10.Gnomenreigen [3:14]
4 March 1914; (36980) A 5550
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
11.Waltz in G-flat, op. 70, no. 1 [2:18]
4 March 1914; (36981) A 5597
12.Berceuse in D-flat, op. 57 [4:45]
January 1916; (36700-3) A 5858
13.Nocturne in E-flat, op. 9, no. 2 [4:33]
January 1916; (36701-4) A 5800
14.Etude in F Minor, op. 25, no. 2 [1:41]
21 January 1916; (48547) A 6013
Theodor LESCHETIZKY (1830-1915)
15.Arabesque en forme d’Etude, op. 45, no. 1 [2:01]
21 January 1916; (48547) A 6013
Adolf von HENSELT (1814-1849)
16.Wiegenlied in G-flat, op. 45 [3:24]
25 January 1916; (48549) A 5896
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
17.Waltz in A-flat, op. 42 [3:49]
7 February 1916; (48580) A 5791
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)
18.Serenade in D Minor, op. 93, no. 4 [2:25]
7 February 1916; (48590) A 6013
Ede POLDINI (1869-1957)
19.Vienna Waltz in F, op. 42, no. 3 [1:53]
7 February 1916; (48590) A 6013
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
20.Etude de concert No. 3 in D-flat, “Un Sospiro” [4:22]
7 February 1916; (48591) A 5800
Adolf von HENSELT (1814-1849)
21.Gondoliera, op. 13, no. 2 [2:03]
7 February 1916; (48592) A 5791
22.Etude in F-sharp, op. 2, no. 6, “Si oiseau j’étais” [2:07]
7 February 1916; (48592) A 5791
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
23.Serenade in D, op. 15, no. 1 [2:24]
26 May 1916; (48808) A 5858
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
24.Waltz in E Minor, op. posth. [1:54]
26 May 1916; (48808) A 5858
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)
25.Melody in F, op. 3, no. 1 [3:41]
5 June 1916; (48810-1) unpublished
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) - Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
26.Rigoletto Paraphrase [4:39]
5 June 1916; (48812) A 5896

CD2: Brunswick Recordings 1920-1922
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)
1.Romance in E-flat, op. 44, no. 1 [3:02]
28 May 1920; (3857) unpublished
Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)
2.Humoresque, from “Miniatures” [2:27]
2 June 1920; (3877) unpublished
Eduard SCHUTT (1856-1933)
3.A la bien-aimée, op. 59, no. 2 [3:04]
2 June 1920; (3879) unpublished
Christian SINDING (1856-1941)
4.Rustles of Spring, op. 32, no. 3 [2:18]
28 July 1920; (4048) 15017
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849) – Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
5.Chant Polonais No. 1, op. 74, no. 1 “The Maiden’s Wish” [3:12]
28 July 1920; (4051) unpublished
John Stafford SMITH (1750-1836) - Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)
6.The Star-Spangled Banner [2:07]
7 December 1920; (4653) unpublished
Felix MENDELSSON (1810-1849)
7.Song Without Words in A, op. 62, no. 6, “Spring Song” [2:32]
7 December 1920; (4655) unpublished
Edward MACDOWELL (1861-1908)
8.Witches’ Dance, op. 17, no. 2 [3:09]
21 December 1920; (4706) 15017
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) 
9.Marche Militaire No. 1 arr. Tausig [4:15]
21 December 1920; (x4708) 50008
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)
10.Tango in D, op. 165, no. 2 [2:03]
24 December 1920; (x4725) unpublished
Eduard SCHUTT (1856-1933)
11.Etude Mignonne in D, op. 16, no. 1 [2:09]
24 December 1920; (x4725) unpublished
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
12.Waltz in C-sharp Minor, op. 64, no. 2 [3:26]
24 December 1920; (4727) 15018
Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)
13.Hunter’s Call, from “Miniatures” [1:02]
7 April 1921; (5240) unpublished
14.Military March, from “Miniatures” [1:36]
7 April 1921; (5240) unpublished
Henry Rowley BISHOP (1786-1855) - Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)
15.Home, Sweet Home [3:44]
24 May 1921; (5667) unpublished
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
16.Fantasy-Impromptu in C-sharp Minor, op. 66 [4:31]
24 May 1921; (x5670) 50008
Cécile CHAMINADE (1857-1944)
17.The Flatterer, op. 50 [3:33]
30 or 31 May 1921; (5721) 15001
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943):
18.Prelude in C-sharp Minor, op. 3, no. 2 [3:29]
30 or 31 May 1921; (5726) unpublished
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)
19.Melody in F, op. 3, no. 1 [3:24]
2-6 June 1921; (5738) 15018
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
20.Impromptu in A-flat, op. 29 [4:25]
2-6 June 1921; (x5748) 50009
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
21.Liebestraum No. 3 in A-flat [4:07]
2-6 June 1921; (x5769) 50024
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)
22.Rêve angelique, op. 10, no. 22 (from “Kammenoi-Ostrov”) [4:38]
2-6 June 1921; (x5755) 50009
Felix MENDELSSON (1810-1849
23.Song Without Words in A, op. 62, no. 6, “Spring Song” [2:34]
10 February 1922; (7282) 15001
Felix MENDELSSON (1810-1849) - Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
24.On Wings of Song [4:16]
16-19 May 1922; (x8051) 50016
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
25.Polonaise in A, op. 40, no. 1 [4:10]
16-19 May 1922; (x8053) 50015


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