Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
A Century of Romantic Chopin
Full track details at end of review
rec. 1895-2003
MARSTON 54001-2 [4 CDs: 79:47 + 79:32 + 79:57 + 79:51]

To mark the composer’s bicentennial year Marston has issued this elegant four CD set, splendidly transferred and with an excellent booklet, as ever. The box contains 90 selections played by 65 different pianists, and the dates of recordings range from two Paul Pabst 1895 private cylinders - which you can also find in Marston’s amazing Julius Bock recordings set (see review) - to 2003. The selections are cannily chosen, mostly to promote the idea of individuality and romantic freedom in Chopin performance, but also for exceptional rarity value as well, so some are live performances, and some you will assuredly not have heard.

The first disc is given over to the Etudes. I listened with a deliberately vague eye on the track running order, so was often unaware who was performing; I kept crafty looks to a bare minimum. The results were often surprising. Why, for example, don’t I admire Rosenthal’s 1929 Edison of the Op.10 No.1 more than I’m supposed to? Is it the left hand’s drumming away and the quixotic hand balancing? I found Cortot’s A minor puckish and delightful. Rosita Renard is only so-so in her 1949 Etude in E, but Sidney Foster - you’d need to be a real pianophile to know him - turns in an amazing performance of the C sharp minor from a recital at Indiana University in 1952; powerful, passionate, bringing out voicings in a most unusual and personalised way. His Black Key from a similar recital a decade later is less incendiary but still very good indeed. Let’s have more from this remarkable musician. Is there much? Backhaus is warmly textured, while Planté gives us a pecking start to the Seventh in C on his 1928 French Columbia, before an increasingly hectic drive to a mirth-inducing close. Odd - but interesting, and he was 89 at the time. Nicolai Orloff’s left hand has ‘gone fishing’ in his 1945 Decca of the Eighth; was it Decca or Orloff, or both? Solomon’s F minor is truly poetic, Garrick Ohlsson’s Tenth attractive, Irene Scharrer ripples away delightfully in her 1933 Columbia. Rubinstein’s Revolutionary must have come via a hand-held cassette. Op.25 offers similar points of interest and contention; more from that Rubinstein recital, Ginzburg in 1952, Anda in wartime Berlin, Svetlanov in Moscow in 1980, and very good too, as anyone who knows his Medtner will have been prepared to aver. Ought I to tempt you further with the names of Barere (the World Program Service Impromptu), Saperton, von Sauer, Friedman, Tagliaferro - where does one start, or stop?

These are the kinds of riches you will find in this box, one for a lifetime’s contemplation and enjoyment. Of course, you won’t like everything, but that’s only to be expected. I don’t go a bundle on Earl Wild’s manicured and erratic G minor Ballade in the second disc. I did like the supercharged central panel of Bolet’s live 1972 New York Ballade in F minor; combustible but in dodgy cassette sound. Natan Brand, rather like Foster, brings out myriad shadings and voicings in his live 1983 recital, in a very original characterful performance. Scharrer is heard again, this time in the B flat minor Scherzo. Clearly the compilers Gregor Benko and Ward Marston have a soft spot for this very underrated English pianist. Up pops Karl Ulrich Schnabel. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting his C sharp minor Scherzo to be this good - but it most certainly is. The three selected Preludes from Op.28 are all from Levitzki from his famous 1929 session whilst another seven are in the variable hands of Guiomar Novaes (NYC, 1966, live), who is far too insistent with the Raindrop. I assume the 1935 BBC broadcast of Rosenthal in the (incomplete) Largo of the Third Sonata is via the Leech Collection - or am I wrong?

The third disc opens with the famous live Hofmann/Barbirolli Chopin Concerto in F minor, of which we hear the second movement. Moiseiwitsch’s Barcarolle wasn’t issued on 78 though it’s been on CD. There’s an unpublished Electrola of Lubka Kolessa (Berlin, 1936) in a Mazurka, and we also hear a splendid conjunction of Russian talents; Sofronitsky and Feinberg side by side in Mazurkas. Antonietta Rudge is heard in a 1934 Brazilian disc, though no details are provided about it; was it a private issue? Especially lovely is another Rubinstein performance, this time of the Op.34/1 Waltz taken from the Hollywood Bowl in 1950. Try to hear the ever-wonderful Arthur Loesser in his electrical test from 1925 of the A flat Waltz Op.42. Good sound, great performance. We also hear from the typically puzzling Michael von Zadora in the Minute waltz.

Francesco Libetta’s Op.27/2 Nocturne is the most recent performance, should you want to know, and it’s in the final disc. So too is a very early example of Alicia de Larrocha’s art - the Op.32/1 Waltz (Barcelona, 1932). Marcel Ciampi’s C minor waltz Op.48/1 is very slow but very beautiful, with an exquisite tone, audible despite the high ration of surface noise. Incidentally faithful Marston subscribers receive a ‘Lagniappe’ disc, and this year it was Ciampi’s complete 78rpm solo recordings, than which things don’t get very much better. Fania Chapiro bucks the trend with a 1982 Fidelio performance on an 1820 Broadwood. Tracks 11-18 are labelled ‘historic recordings’ given that they range from 1895-1922. The roll-call - mouths prepare to salivate now - reads; Paderewski, Grünfeld, Rachmaninoff, Michalowski, Busoni, those Pabsts and then an out-of-sequence rarity - Bartók playing an incomplete Nocturne Op.27 No.1 from 1939.

Well then. This set belongs on the shelves of every piano collector, and anyone seriously interested in Chopin interpretation on disc.

Jonathan Woolf

Full Track Details
A Century of Romantic Chopin

Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
CD 1 [79:47]
Etudes, Op. 10
No. 1 in C (Moriz Rosenthal) 2:02
4 April 1929, New York City (N-838) Edison 47004-L
No. 2 in A Minor (Alfred Cortot) 1:25
4 July 1933, London (2B 5204) HMV DB2027
No. 3 in E (Rosita Renard) 3:12
19 January 1949, New York City Society of Friends of Music, Bogota, Columbia XTLP 11428
No. 4 in C-sharp Minor (Sidney Foster) 2:04
27 April 1952, Indiana University recital
No. 5 in G-flat “Black Keys” (Sidney Foster) 1:34
2 October 1961, Indiana University recital
No. 6 in E-flat Minor (Wilhelm Backhaus) 3:13
5 January 1928 (Cc12405-1) HMV DB1133
No. 7 in C (Francis Planté) 2:02
3-4 July 1928, Mont-de-Marsan, France (WL 1231-1) French Columbia D 13060
No. 8 in F (Nikolai Orloff) 2:17
20 December 1945, London (AR 9940-3) English Decca K1426
No. 9 in F Minor (Solomon) 2:10
16 September 1942, London (2EA 9274-1) HMV C3345
No. 10 in A-flat (Garrick Ohlsson) 2:11
October 1996, Purchase, New York Arabesque Z6718
No. 11 in E-flat “Harp” (Irene Scharrer) 3:20
21 July 1933, London (CA 13819-3) Columbia DB 1224
No. 12 in C Minor “Revolutionary” (Arthur Rubinstein) 2:52
13 January 1974, New York City recital
Etudes, Op. 25
No. 1 in A-flat “Aeolian Harp” (Claudio Arrau) 2:26
23 January 1929, Berlin (BLR 4939) HMV EG 1500
No. 2 in F Minor “Les abeilles” (Grigory Ginzburg) 1:25
Ca. 1952, Moscow CCCP 001282
No. 3 in F “Cartwheel” (Arthur Rubinstein) 1:48
13 January 1974, New York City recital
No. 4 in A Minor (Rosita Renard) 1:46
19 January 1949, New York City Society of Friends of Music, Bogota, Columbia XTLP 11428
No. 5 in E Minor (Géza Anda) 4:27
May 1943, Berlin (21942 GS) Siemens 68088 A
No. 6 in G-sharp Minor “Thirds” (Josef Lhévinne) 1:57
23 February 1933, New York City broadcast
No. 7 in C-sharp Minor “Cello” (Evgeny Svetlanov) 6:06
1980, Moscow Melodiya LP C10 19073 003
No. 8 in D-flat “Sixths” (Rosita Renard) 1:00
19 January 1949, New York City Society of Friends of Music, Bogota, Columbia XTLP 11428
No. 9 in G-flat “Butterfly” (Ignaz Friedman) 0:59
10 February 1928, London (WA6946-2) English Columbia D1615
No. 10 in B Minor “Octave” (David Saperton) 4:30
1952, New York City Command Performance LP 1203
No. 11 in A Minor “Winter Wind” (Alfred Cortot) 3:37
4 November 1942, Paris (2LA 3880-1) HMV W-1536
No. 12 in C Minor “Ocean” (Emil von Sauer) 2:51
Ca. 1940, Berlin (CR 759-1) German Columbia LW 38
Nouvelle Etudes
No. 1 in F Minor (Robert Goldsand) 2:41
23 July 1975, Syracuse, New York recital
No. 2 in A-flat (Ann Schein) 2:22
1958, New York City Kapp LP K-9023-S
No. 3 in D-flat (David Saperton) 1:52
1952, New York City Command Performance LP 1203
Impromptu No. 1 in A-flat, Op. 29 (Simon Barere) 3:16
Recording date and location unknown World Program Service 16” vertical-cut disc 100-3451
Fantasie-Impromptu (Magda Tagliaferro) 3:56
1934, Paris (CPTX 89) Pathé PAT 22
Berceuse (Walter Gieseking) 4:26
10 August 1938, Berlin (CRX 80-1) German Columbia LWX 304

CD 2 [79:32]
No. 1 in G Minor (Earl Wild) 9:43
1 November 1981, New York City recital
No. 4 in F Minor (Jorge Bolet) 11:07
5 January 1972, New York City recital
Tarantella (Shura Cherkassky) 3:18
10 April 1991, St. Paul, Minnesota recital
No. 1 in B Minor (Natan Brand) 8:19
1983, Amherst, Massachusetts recital
No. 2 in B-flat Minor (Irene Scharrer) 6:57
5 December 1932, London (CAX 6604-3/6605-2) English Columbia DX433
No. 3 in C-sharp Minor (Karl Ulrich Schnabel) 7:33
Ca. 1955, New York City Urania LP 8001
Selected Preludes from Op. 28
Mischa Levitzki:
No. 1 in C 0:54
No. 7 in A 0:56
No. 23 in F 1:28
21 November 1929, London (Bb 18113-3a) HMV DA 1223
Guiomar Novaes:
No. 9 in E 1:33
No. 10 in C-sharp Minor 0:30
No. 11 in B 0:45
No. 15 in D-flat “Raindrop” 5:31
No. 18 in F Minor 1:00
No. 20 in C Minor 1:41
No. 22 in G Minor 0:46
22 October 1966, New York City recital
Prelude in C-sharp Minor, Op. 45 (Alfred Cortot) 4:10
4 November 1949, London (2EA 14284) HMV DB21018
Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor
Third Movement (Funeral March) (Ignaz Friedman) 6:13
1-2 March 1927, London (WAX 2471-1/2472-1) issued only on Australian Columbia 04007
Fourth Movement (Finale) (Leopold Godowsky) 1:36
25 April 1930, London (WAX 5554-2) English Columbia LX 126
Sonata No. 3 in B Minor
Third Movement (Largo) [Incomplete] (Moriz Rosenthal) 5:33
23 March 1935, London from BBC broadcast

CD 3 [(79:57]
Concerto in F Minor
Second Movement (Larghetto) (Josef Hofmann) 8:42
With symphony orchestra conducted by John Barbirolli
27 December 1936, New York City
Barcarolle (Benno Moiseiwitsch) 7:53
17 March 1939, London (2EA7665-1/7666-1) HMV unpublished on 78 rpm
Op. 7, No. 1 in B-flat (Alexander Brailowsky) 2:40
1927, Berlin (191 bv) Polydor 90324
Op. 30, No. 4 in C-sharp Minor (Joseph Villa) 3:47
1993, New York City, private recital
Op. 33, No. 1 in G-sharp Minor (Lubka Kolessa) 1:27
October 1936, Berlin (0RA 1559-1) Electrola unpublished
Op. 41, No. 1 in C-sharp Minor (Vladimir Sofronitsky) 2:53
Ca. 1948, Moscow (18367) CCCP 18367
Op. 59, No. 3 in F-sharp Minor (Samuel Feinberg) 2:56
1952, Moscow Melodiya LP 20431
Op. 63, No. 2 in F Minor (William Kapell) 1:54
21 March 1947, New York City recital
Op. 63, No. 3 in C-sharp Minor (Antonietta Rudge) 2:25
25 July 1934, Brazil
Op. 68, No. 1 in C (Youra Guller) 1:36
28 June 1956, Paris Ducretet Thomson 255 C 039
Op. 40, No. 1 in A (Solomon) 3:53
30 November 1932, London (CAX 6594-2) English Columbia DX441
Op. 53 in A-flat (Ignaz Friedman) 6:17
1-2 March 1927, London (WAX 1871-4/1872-4) English Columbia L 1990
Op. 18 in E-flat “Grande Valse Brillante” (Arthur de Greef) 4:13
24 March 1926, London (CC8178-1) HMV D1222
Op. 34, No. 1 in A-flat (Arthur Rubinstein) 4:19
1950 Hollywood Bowl encore
Op. 34, No. 2 in A Minor (Vladimir Horowitz) 6:10
4 November 1979, Toronto recital
Op. 34, No. 3 in F (Jan Smeterlin) 2:05
1929, Berlin (1553 BH) Polydor 22363
Op. 42 in A-flat (Arthur Loesser) 4:06
19 February 1925, Camden, New Jersey Unnumbered electrical recording test
Op. 64, No. 1 in D-flat “Minute” (Michael von Zadora) 1:46
1929, Berlin (1854 BK) Polydor 22120 B
Op. 64, No. 1 in D-flat (Zadora transcription) (Cecile Staub Genhart) 2:02
6 April 1943, Rochester, New York recital
Op. 64, No. 2 in C-sharp Minor (Moriz Rosenthal) 3:52
29 May 1929, Berlin (2-21457) Parlophone matrix issued only on Japanese Columbia W228
Op. 70, No. 1 in G-flat (Walter Morse Rummel) 2:20
January 1943, Berlin (2221 GE) Siemens 68064 B
Op. Post. in E Minor (Dinu Lipatti) 2:41
7-12 July 1950, Geneva (CZX 285-1B) English Columbia LX 1346

CD 4 [79:51]
Op. 9, No. 2 in E-flat (Moriz Rosenthal) 4:25
29 March 1935, London (2EA 1359-1) HMV unpublished on 78 rpm
Op. 9, No. 2 in E-flat 4:29
(Raoul von Koczalski performed with authentic Chopin variants)
July 1937, Berlin 209 (796 GE) Polydor 67246 B
Op. 27, No. 2 D-flat (Francesco Libetta) 6:47
13 December 2003, Fort Lauderdale, Florida recital
Op. 32, No. 1 in B (Alicia de Larrocha) 3:26
3 June 1932, Barcelona (SO 7743) Odeon private recording unpublished on 78
Op. 48, No. 1 in C Minor (Marcel Ciampi) 7:13
15 June 1929, Paris (WLX 1071-882) French Columbia D 15226
Op. 55, No. 2 in E-flat (Ignaz Friedman) 4:38
23 November 1936, London (CAX 7888-1) English Columbia DX 781
Op. 62, No. 1 in B (Fania Chapiro) 6:43
October 1982, Utrecht Fidelio 8840
Op. 62, No. 2 in E (Raymond Lewenthal) 7:10
23 September 1978, St. Paul, Minnesota recital
Op. 72, No. 1 in E Minor (Vladimir de Pachmann) 4:11
3 November 1927, London (Cc11757-1) HMV DB 1106
Op. Post. in C-sharp Minor (Thomas Manshardt) 4:58
13 June 1980, Cleveland, Ohio recital
Historic Recordings
Mazurka Op. 17, No. 4 (Ignace Jan Paderewski) 3:18
July 1911, Riond-Bosson, Morges, Switzerland (334 AJ) HMV 045565
Mazurka Op. 67, No. 4 in A Minor (Alfred Grunfeld) 2:08
1902, Vienna (2521b) G&T 45506
Waltz Op. 42 in A-flat (Sergei Rachmaninoff) 3:56
18 April 1919 (6731-A) Edison 82197-L
Waltz Op. 64, No. 2 in C-sharp Minor (Alexander Michalowski) 3:11
16 January 1906, Warsaw (3587L) G&T 25604
Nocturne Op. 15, No. 2 in F-sharp (Ferruccio Busoni) 3:32
27 February 1922, London (76703) English Columbia L1432
Nocturne Op. 27, No. 1 in C-sharp Minor [Incomplete] (Béla Bartók) 4:09
1939, From broadcast
Nocturne Op. 62, No. 2 in E [Incomplete] (Paul Pabst) 3:47
12 Feb 1895 o.s., Private cylinder made by Julius Block, Moscow
Waltz Op. 64, No. 1 in D-flat “Minute” (Pabst transcription) (Paul Pabst) 1:50
12 February 1895 o.s., Private cylinder made by Julius Block, Moscow
MARSTON 54001-2 [4 CDs: 79:47 + 79:32 + 79:57 + 79:51]

Belongs on the shelves of every piano collector, and anyone seriously interested in Chopin interpretation on disc.