One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,928 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider


paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas
All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews



Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Discs for review may be sent to:
Jonathan Woolf
76 Lushes Road
Essex IG10 3QB
United Kingdom


AmazonUK AmazonUS


The Virtuoso Pianolist
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Les Noces (1923) [23:47]
Witold LUTOSŁAWSKI (1913-1994)
Paganini Variations [5:37]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini Op. 43 (1934) [21:21]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
From Solomon (1748), Arrival of the Queen of Sheba [3:01]
Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Toccata from Organ Symphony No.5 (1879) [1:11]
Sir Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
From Pineapple Poll: Overture [3:28]; Belaye’s Solo [1:47]; Reconciliation [4:09]; Finale [3:14]
Rex Lawson (pianola)
rec. Djanogly Recital Hall, University of Nottingham, England, 23-24 March 1998
OTHER MINDS OM10012 [71:35] 
Experience Classicsonline

Looking into Rex Lawson, I discovered that this is a re-release of The Pianola Institute’s own first CD, given the catalogue number Aeolia 1001. This is out of print, put was produced in collaboration with the Other Minds Festival of California whose alternatively designed release is still available, though I’m not sure if supplies are that abundant.

The pianola is a strange and wonderful phenomenon, and takes numerous forms both in its technical functioning and appearance. Rex Lawson has long been one of the leading names associated with the pianola or ‘player piano’, and like Jürgen Hocker, has in the past worked with Conlon Nancarrow, a composer who singlehandedly brought the instrument into the light of 20th century creativity. Hocker has been able to create a superb body of state-of-the-art recordings for the MDG label, but the production of this older recording is certainly of a very high standard. The University recital hall is fairly dry as an acoustic, but mechanical rumble from the machinery is very low in the aural picture even with the close microphone placement, and only featured ever so slightly when I listened through my second-mortgage headphones. The only other thing I noticed through repossession headphones was a slight tick here and there as if listening to a new LP. I have no explanation for this and pass it off as a very minor irritation; probably not noticeable in normal circumstances.

Collectors familiar with Stravinsky’s own rather abrasive 1959 recording of Les Noces might balk at the thought of this piece played on piano alone, and through a mechanical pianola at that. During the 1920s, the firm of Pleyel provided Stravinsky with a studio in its headquarters in the rue Rochechouart. He seemed virtually to live there for a while, being able to use it as an office, a studio for composition, and a workshop for creating new piano roll versions of most of his early works, as well as an environment away from not always the easiest of domestic circumstances. He made new arrangements of The Firebird, Petrushka, The Rite of Spring, Song of the Nightingale and Pulcinella, as well as Les Noces. Rex Lawson’s pianola performance of The Rite of Spring appeared on an intriguing CD pairing, back to back with a slightly dodgy live recording with Benjamin Zander conducting the Boston Philharmonic with the same piece on IMP MCD 25. The attempt then was to restore Stravinsky’s original intentions in terms of tempo to the orchestral version, but with Les Noces the most intriguing thing for me is how the music is transformed into an almost entirely new and fascinating work. Shorn of wobbly singers and the extraneous colours of percussion and chorus, the pianola seems like a ‘soft’ alternative at first. All of the inventively angular melodic shapes and repetitions take on a different life however, and rhythmically the work generates a rich tapestry of contrasts. Some passages have a much more potent ‘groove’ than can be heard in the full scoring, and the relationship of this piece to the Rite jumps out more frequently as a result.

The ‘reproducing piano’ as it is called in the booklet notes, is a highly complex instrument. Looking at diagrams of a typical machine would seem to indicate that the ‘driver’ needs at least three of each limb. The player controls tempo, dynamics and pedals in a variety of ways, and anyone who imagines it’s just a question of turning a switch and waiting until the roll has finished needs to think again. Rex Lawson’s legendary technique turns Les Noces into a remarkably fresh sounding tour de force, making it easy to hear why Stravinsky was so enthusiastic about the potential for this medium for his own work. Any fan of Stravinsky, early or late, needs to hear this version of Les Noces.

The other works on this disc are all arrangements by Rex Lawson, and while the programme is a bit of a strange selection all of the pieces are unified by the virtuoso pianolist’s expertise and sensitivity of touch. Lutosławski’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini covers a great deal of ground in its relatively brief time-span, from wide athletic leaps to lyrical legato, and is an ideal showcase for the reproducing piano. The same goes for the two-piano arrangement of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, although the familiarity of this piece as a technical extravaganza in numerous guises makes the ear forget the machine origins of the performance more easily somehow.

Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba is treated with a certain amount of artistic licence, and there is something going on in the treble between the two pianos which makes some passages sound like a turbo toy-piano. Such arrangements have plenty of legitimacy, and this is apparently one of Rex’s highly popular best-selling rolls. Widor’s Toccata from the 5th Symphony for organ sounds fine here, but is the only one out of the pieces here which I felt might have benefited from a bit more wow factor in terms of tempo. All of those running figures sound a bit like a Czerny etude, and the ‘left hand’ rhythms end up a bit pedestrian. We know this piece well enough, so why not make it sound really ‘unplayable’. The final surprise is a clutch of movements from Pineapple Poll, tunes by Sir Arthur Sullivan, arrangement by Sir Charles Mackerras. This is all great fun as you might expect, but the penultimate movement Reconciliation also shows how wonderfully sensitive this mechanical reproducing thing can be when allowed to perform a real lyrical melody.

This disc is no mere novelty, and having this rare recording of Stravinsky’s own arrangement of Les Noces for pianola is something all serious collectors should consider. It would be a truly fascinating project to have as complete a set as possible of all of Stravinsky’s own pianola rolls, and there must surely be plenty of motivation for bringing them together on record. European readers keen on having a live demonstration are urged to visit the Amsterdam Pianola Museum, whose floor to ceiling stacked walls are a living symbol for the problems of storage and the benefits on insulation when it comes to piano rolls. Rex Lawson’s own well written notes for this release top off an attractive package which goes way beyond expectations at just about every turn.

Dominy Clements


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

Eloquence recordings
All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Recordings of the Month


Cantatas and Organ Works

Complete Songs

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Simone Dinnerstein piano





Chopin Bruce Liu

Ingeneri Volume 2

Mondonville - Titon et L'Aurore

Telemann - French Cantatas 1




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.