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Claude Debussy; the composer as pianist
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Préludes, Book 1: no 1, Danseuses de Delphes (1909) [3:04]   
Préludes, Book 1: no 10, La cathédrale engloutie (1910) [5:01]   
Préludes, Book 1: no 11, La danse de Puck (1910) [2:10]   
Préludes, Book 1: no 12, Minstrels (1910) (1:45)   
Préludes, Book 1: no 3, Le vent dans la plaine (1909) [2:00]  
Estampes (3) for Piano: no 2, La soirée dans Grenade (1903) [5:34]   
Children's Corner: no 1, Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum (1906-08) [1:51]
Children's Corner: no 2, Jimbo's Lullaby (1906-08) [3:06]   
Children's Corner: no 3, Serenade for the Doll (1906-08) [1:44]      
Children's Corner: no 4, The Snow is Dancing (1906-08) [2:09]   
Children's Corner: no 5, The Little Shepherd (1906-8) [1:47]   
Children's Corner: no 6, Golliwogg's Cake-walk (1906-08) [2:53] Studio
D'un cahier d'esquisses (1903) [4:30]
Pelléas et Mélisande: Mes longs chevaux  (1893-1902) [1:47] ¹  
Ariettes oubliées: no 5, Green (1886) [1:36] ¹  
Ariettes oubliées: no 3, L'ombre des arbres (1885) [2:22] ¹  
Ariettes oubliées: no 2, Il pleure dans mon coeur (1885) [2:11] ¹
Claude Debussy (piano)
Mary Garden (soprano) ¹
rec. 1904 (discs with Mary Garden): 1913 (piano rolls)
PIERIAN 0001 [49:02]
 

 

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Enrique Granados. The Composer as Pianist. His Recordings for M. Welte and Soehne, Paris 1913
Enrique GRANADOS (1867 - 1916)
Goyescas for Piano, Op. 11: Book 1 - no 1, Los requiebros (1911) [7:10]   
Goyescas for Piano, Op. 11: Book 1 - no 2, Coloquio en la reja (1911) [9:27]    Goyescas for Piano, Op. 11: Book 1 - no 3, El fandango de Candil (1911) [5:24]   
Goyescas for Piano, Op. 11: Book 1 - no 4, Quejas ó la maja y el ruiseñor (1911) (6:34) 
rec. Paris, 1912-13
Danzas (12) españolas for Piano, Op. 37: no 5, Andaluza (1892-1900) [3:43]   
Danzas (12) españolas for Piano, Op. 37: no 7, Valenciana (1892-1900) [4:20]   
Danzas (12) españolas for Piano, Op. 37: no 10, Melancolica (1892-1900) [3:51]   
Valses (7) poeticos [10:19]   
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757) 
Sonata for Harpsichord in B flat major - transcribed: Enrique Granados (ca. 1906)
[2:03] and comparison with an Odeon 78 disc, recorded by Granados in c.1912 [1:56] 
Enrique Granados (piano)
PIERIAN 0002 [54:49]

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Alexander Scriabin. The Composer as Pianist. His Recordings for M. Welte and Soehne, Moscow 1910
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Preludes (24) for Piano, Op. 11: no 1 in C major (1888-1896) [1:53]
Preludes (24) for Piano, Op. 11: no 2 in A minor (1888-1896) [1:43]
Poemes (2) for Piano, Op. 32: no 1 in F sharp major (1903) [3:29]
Etudes (12) for Piano, Op. 8: no 12 in D sharp minor (1894) [2:04]
Pieces (2) for Piano, Op. 57: no 1, Desir (1907) [1:32]
Preludes (4) for Piano, Op. 22: no 1 in G sharp minor (1897) [1:16]
Mazurkas (2) for Piano, Op. 40: no 2 in F sharp major (1902-1903) [0:49]
Preludes (24) for Piano, Op. 11: no 13 in G flat major (1888-1896) [1:48]
Preludes (24) for Piano, Op. 11: no 14 in E flat minor (1888-1896) [0:47]
Alexander Scriabin (piano) rec 1910
Pieces (2) for Piano left hand, in D major Op. 9: no 2, Nocturne (1894) [4:38]
Josef Lhevinne (piano)
rec. 1906
Sonata for Piano no 2 in G sharp minor, Op. 19 "Sonata fantasy": Andante (1892-1897) [6:35]
Konstantin Igumnov (piano)
rec. 1910
Mazurkas (2) for Piano, Op. 40: no 2 in F sharp major (1902-1903) [1:02]
Alexander Goldenweiser (piano)
rec. 1910
Preludes (24) for Piano, Op. 11: no 5 in D major (1888-1896) [1:50]
Preludes (24) for Piano, Op. 11: no 3 in G major (1888-1896) [1:17]
Preludes (24) for Piano, Op. 11: no 4 in E minor (1888-1896) [2:04]
Preludes (24) for Piano, Op. 11: no 6 in B minor (1888-1896) [0:51]
Pieces (3) for Piano, Op. 45: no 1, Feuillet d'album (1904-1905) [1:47]
Pieces (3) for Piano, Op. 2: no 1, Etude in C sharp minor (1887-1889) [3:26]
Austin Conradi (piano)
rec. 1921-22
Pieces (2) for Piano, Op. 57: no 1, Desir (1907) [1:30]
Pieces (2) for Piano, Op. 57: no 2, Caresse dansee (1907) [1:01]
Pieces (3) for Piano, Op. 52: no 2, Enigma (1906) [1:17]
Poemes (2) for Piano, Op. 32: no 1 in F sharp major (1903) [3:33]
Leff Pouishnoff (piano)
rec. 1926
Pieces (2) for Piano left hand, in D major Op. 9: no 2, Nocturne (1894) [5:16]
Magdeleine Brard (piano)
rec. 1925
PIERIAN 0018 [50:33]

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Alfredo Casella and Ottorino Respighi. The composer as pianist
Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Fontane di Roma, for piano, 4 hands (arr. from the orchestral piece), P. 115: The Fountain of Villa Giulia (Dawn) (1924) [3:19]
Fontane di Roma, for piano, 4 hands (arr. from the orchestral piece), P. 115: The Triton Fountain; The Fountain of Trevi (Midday) (1924) [5:30]
Fontane di Roma, for piano, 4 hands (arr. from the orchestral piece), P. 115: The Villa Medici Fountain (Sunset) (1924) [4:56]
Alfredo Casella and Ottorino Respighi (pianos)
rec. New York, 1925
Ancient Airs and Dances, Set 1, arrangements (6) for piano, P. 114: Siciliana, Italiana /Gagliarda [8:34]
Richard Singer (piano)
rec. c.1924
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Préludes (12) for piano, Book II, L. 123: No. 7, La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune [4:08]
Préludes (12) for piano, Book II, L. 123: No. 2, Feuilles mortes [2:48]
Préludes (12) for piano, Book II, L. 123: No. 6, General Lavine-eccentric [1:58]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867 - 1916)
Spanish Dances (12), in 4 volumes for piano, Op. 37, H. 142, DLR 1:2: No. 11. Zambra [4:47]
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)
Iberia Suite for piano, B. 47, Book 1: Evocation [3:33]
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757) 
Sonata in G [3:17]
Alfredo CASELLA (1893-1947)
Inezie, for piano, Op 32: Preludio; Serenata; Berceuse [4:41]
Pezzi infantili (11), for piano, Op. 35: No. 1-6: Preludio; Valse diatonique; Canone; Bolero Omaggio a Clementi, Siciliana [5:16]
Pezzi infantili (11), for piano, Op. 35: Nos. 7-11: Giga; Minuetto; Carillon; Berceuse; Galop; Finale [5:55]
Alfredo Casella (piano)
rec. New York, 1925
Deux contrastes Op.31 'Hommage à Chopin': Grazioso; Antigrazioso [2:06]
Carlo Zecchi (piano)
rec. 1926
Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Liriche (Songs) [13:51]
Nebbie, song for mezzo-soprano and piano (or orchestra), P. 64
Nevicata, song for mezzo-soprano and piano, P. 65
Stornellatrice, song for soprano and piano, P. 69 (from opera 'Re Enzo')
Canti all'antica, songs (5) for mezzo-soprano and piano, P. 71: Bella porta di rubini
E se un giorno tornasse, recitative for mezzo-soprano and piano, P. 96
Liriche su parole di poeti armeni, songs (4) for voice and piano, P. 132: La mamma è come il pane caldo
Liriche su parole di poeti armeni, songs (4) for voice and piano, P. 132: La Madre
Anon: Two Italian Folksongs -La bella Baganaj and Tarantella [2:06]
Elsa Respighi (mezzo) and Ottorino Respighi (piano)
rec. Brazil, 1927 on 78s
PIERIAN 0024 [76:45]
Experience Classicsonline


 

 

 
I’ve reviewed a number of Pierian piano-roll discs before, and this is a good opportunity to consolidate a few more reviews in one article.
 
The Debussy rolls are probably the best know in this sequence of four CDs. They were recorded for Welte in Paris in 1913. As the notes make clear there are textual changes incorporated in some of these performances that shed light on Debussy’s compositional processes. These small variants are of some significance and the authenticity of their existence can hardly be doubted. That said other aspects of Debussy’s playing, as is habitual in piano roll recordings, are to be taken on trust. Wide discrepancies regarding tempi can be inferred to be part of his own intention, but apart from La cathédrale engloutie where there is some sizeable tempo discrepancy things are never really clear-cut. It seems impossible for instance that he played The Golliwog’s Cake-Walk in the stilted and rhythmically mechanical way it’s presented in this roll. The appendix consists of the 1904 G&T discs – not rolls, obviously – that Debussy made as a pianist when accompanying Mary Garden. These four commercial sides have been better transferred elsewhere – and I wish that the piano could be pitch-stabilized in the way that Marston has managed for problematic Paris G&T sessions of around this time.
 
In a way similar to Debussy, the Granados disc is valuable inasmuch as it too preserves the composer’s own variants. Whilst Frank Marshall was closely associated with performance of Granados’s own piano works the composer demonstrated these many variant passages to him, and others, and these 1913 rolls corroborate Granados’s well-known quasi-improvisational approach to his own music. One can, I think, go as far as endorsing the tempo relations within the pieces as representing Granados’s express intentions but questions of rhythm, colour, dynamics and a whole host of other vital things, are very much more problematic. These documents are fascinating but they are ultimately tangential. There is a fascinating example at the end – an appendix with the same piece of music (a Scarlatti sonata in B flat minor) played by Granados on both a roll and a disc. To my ear the rhythmic inflexibility of the roll is clear and the 1913 disc, for all its sonic imperfections, represents authentic Granados playing unmediated by mechanics in the way that the roll is.
 
The Scriabin disc offers a variety of things. Most prominent is the series of rolls the composer left behind in Moscow in 1910 shortly before his early death. The Op.11 No.2 Prelude is lumpy – surely a long way from Scriabin’s real intentions – but again it’s the tempo relationships and things like the accelerandi that may give one an inkling as to his genuine imprint. The famed Op.8 No.12 Etude is here, but no sonatas. The Mazurka Op.40 No.2 sounds almost flippant. There follows a roster of pianists playing single works or sets. Josef Lhevinne was the earliest to be recorded – Freiburg, 1906 – and American Austin Conradi recorded the longest sequence other than Scriabin himself. Despite the limitations of the roll system the Op.45 No,1 Album Leaf sounds haunting. But Pouishnoff’s 1926 roll of Kresse Dansée is very jerky and unlifelike.
 
The final disc contains those two fascinating near-contemporaries, Casella and Respighi conjoined in a four hands, single piano arrangement of The Fountains of Rome, recorded on rolls in New York in 1926. Again it’s to be taken with several pinches of salt, but it does remain a fascinating artefact in the composer’s own arrangement, It was new music too when the two sat down to record it on rolls. The Ancient Airs and Dances are played by Richard Singer. Casella plays a number of his own pieces. He had been a friend of Debussy so his performances of the composer’s work should not be dismissed. Casella also plays a series of Spanish pieces – Granados, Albéniz, and some Scarlatti - before embarking on a series of his own compositions. The repertoire here is instructive as is the playing in the Pezzi Infantili, which was split into two rolls. Carlo Zecchi, later to be well known, also performs Casella, in 1926.
 
To act as an appendix we also have the commercial 78s that Respighi made with his wife Elsa in Brazil in 1927. These are rare items, and come from the collection of Adriano. Early electrics, they are a little worn and have a touch of blasting, but are uncommon, and it’s very valuable to hear the voice for whom Respighi wrote many of his post-1919 songs.
 
Given the caveats that always need to be made regarding piano rolls, these are individually and collectively fascinating documents. And they have been well collated by the Pierian team.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 
 


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