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Landmarks of Recorded Pianism – Volume 2
rec. 1912-1955
MARSTON 52075-2 [78:58 + 79:54]

It's two years since I reviewed volume 1 in this series. I started by laying out some of the background behind its origin. In 1977 the Desmar label issued an LP, produced by International Piano Archives, titled "Landmarks of Recorded Pianism", its aim being to accommodate some of the 'orphan' recordings of great pianists that were superfluous to requirements. That LP was Volume 1, but a follow-up volume never materialized. Marston's project is cast along similar lines. The notes in this latest offering offer a suitable definition of a landmark, stating that it's "... recognizable as conspicuously standing out, something that might be of interest due to notable features of historical significance". The choices for what to include have been left to Gregor Benko and Ward Marston. Of historical significance, they illustrate pianists’ performance styles before World War 11, and the difference between their live and studio recordings.

Federico Mompou is substantially represented by eight items, set down between 1929-1944. With the exception of one, his own adorned arrangement of Chopin's Valse in A minor, Op. 34, No. 2, all the others feature his own compositions. I was amazed by the quality of tone he produces, a magical elixir of touch and pedal, where the diaphanous sonorities emerge with glowing radiance; surely these are one of the highlights of the set. There's some background hiss in the earlier recordings, but this is less discernible in the later ones.

Chopin's 'Heroic' polonaise was recorded twice by Ignaz Friedeman. The first in 1927 was noted for its swashbuckling exuberance. This later version from 1933, more reined in, was only issued in Argentina and is in better sound. The pianist visited Japan in November 1933 and early home recording apparatus captured four short pieces from the five recitals he gave on five consecutive days. The sound quality is very poor and marred by distortion, especially in the louder sections. Chopin's posthumous polonaise is incomplete. Friedman performed Beethoven's 'Appassionata' during this tour, but the logistics of capturing a work of this length on the primitive equipment probably proved too onerous for the amateur recordist. Nevertheless, we can't be anything but grateful for his endeavours.

A Leschetizky pupil in Vienna, Frank La Forge originated from Illinois. His career gravitated towards accompanying, partnering some of the finest singers of the day including Gadski, Sembrich, Schumann-Heink, Anderson and Tibbett. Here he performs Gottschalk's Pasquinade (Caprice), Op. 59 in 1912, a delightful morsel with an infectious catchy rhythm. Rosita Renard is a completely new name as far as I'm concerned. The Monteverdi-Alderighi Madrigal doesn't hold much interest, but the Debussy Feux d'artifice, depicting a firework display over Paris, brims over the scintillating arpeggios, luminous trills and virtuosic chord passages. Lyapunov's  Etude d'execution transcendante, Op. 11/10 'Lezghinka' in the hands of Reah Sadowsky has all the passion, fire and ferocity of Balakirev's Islamey.  Eugčne Arnold Dolmetsch, was a French-born musician and instrument maker.  He spent much of his working life in England, establishing an instrument-making workshop in Haslemere, Surrey. His 1933 'Moonlight' was recorded on an 'original' fortepiano, said to date from 1799. Its shorter sustaining power achieves "the subtle effect of the tones melting into one another" with the pedal held down throughout the movement. It’s pleasing to hear the Grainger items prefaced by a spoken introduction.

Of the two large-scaled canvases, Etelka Freund's 'Appassionata' is intelligently constructed, with a fine sense of structure and style. Each of the dramatic climaxes registers impact and potency. Her technique is secure throughout, and the slow movement offers some profound reflective contrast. Mark Hambourg's unpublished account of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto dates from 1955. He's partnered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Malcolm Sargent. The opening is a little too barnstorming for my taste. He's better in the slow movement, where he poetically sculpts the lyrical line. A rhythmically tight finale calls time.

I've derived much pleasure from this expertly curated set. It's worth mentioning that the sound quality is variable. Whilst the Rosenthal Edison, Friedman’s 1933 Tokyo broadcast, and the Dolmetsch item demand some perseverance, the rest provide a satisfying listening experience. Gregor Benko's superbly detailed annotations are beyond reproach. They provide illuminating cameos of each of the artists featured. This is supplemented with an array of fascinating black and white photographs. Collectors following this series need not hesitate.
Stephen Greenbank

CD 1 [78:58]
Moritz Rosenthal (1862–1946)
1. Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-sharp Minor (Liszt-Rosenthal) 10:44
11 February 1929; New York City; Edison Hour Broadcast; unpublished
2. Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-sharp Minor (Liszt-Rosenthal) 7:47
16 April 1930; Berlin; (30473/4) Ultraphon F 486
Percy Grainger (1882–1961)
3. Introductory Remarks by Grainger 1:02
4. Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565 (Bach-Tausig) 8:44
5. Scotch Strathspey and Reel (Grainger) 3:48
6. Irish Tune from County Derry (Traditional, arranged Grainger) 3:31
22 July 1953; Midwestern Music Camp recital at University of Kansas; unpublished
Federico Mompou (1893–1987)
7. Canción y Danza No. 1 (Mompou) 2:52
13 December 1929; Barcelona; (BJ 2830-2) Spanish HMV AA 172
8. Canción y Danza No. 2 (Mompou) 3:01
13 December 1929; Barcelona; (BJ 2831-2) Spanish HMV AA 172
9. Canción y Danza No. 3 (Mompou) 3:05
20 December 1929; Barcelona; (BJ 2863-4) Spanish HMV AA 175
10. Valse in A Minor, Op. 34, No. 2 (Chopin-Mompou) 2:38
20 December 1929; Barcelona; (BJ 2864-1) Spanish HMV AA 177
11. Secreto (Mompou) 2:23
20 December 1929; Barcelona; (BJ 2865-2) Spanish HMV AA 177
12. Canción y Danza No. 4 (Mompou) 2:29
29 January 1930; Barcelona; (BJ 3027-1) Spanish HMV AA 175
13. Canción y Danza No. 6 (Mompou) 3:15
Late June 1944; Barcelona; (T6917-2) Spanish HMV private issue
14. Paisajes No. 1: La fuente y la campana (Mompou) 3:34
Late June 1944; Barcelona; (T6918-1) Spanish HMV private issue
Ignaz Friedman (1882–1948)
15. Polonaise in A-flat, Op. 53 (Chopin) 6:37
28 February 1933; London; (CAX 6733-1/6734-3) Argentinian Columbia 264968
16. Mazurka in B-flat, Op. 7, No. 1 (Chopin) 2:11
17. Polonaise in B-flat, Op. Posthumous (Chopin) 4:23
18. Song Without Words, Op. 67, No. 4, “Spinning Song” (Mendelssohn) 1:50
19. Prelude in D-flat, Op. 28, No. 15, “Raindrop” (Chopin) 5:03
8 October 1933; Tokyo; Studio Broadcast; unpublished

CD 2 [79:54]
Frank La Forge (1879–1953)
1. Pasquinade (Caprice), Op. 59 (Gottschalk) 3:14
1 October 1912; Camden, New Jersey; (B-12420-4) Victor 45050
Rosita Renard (1894–1949)
2. Madrigal (Monteverdi-Alderighi) 3:09
17 December 1929; New York City; (E31524) Brunswick 41257
3. Feuxd’artifice, No. 12 from Préludes Book II (Debussy) 3:07
28 February 1930; New York City; (E32021) Brunswick 41257
Reah Sadowsky (1915–2012)
4. Transcendental Etude in B Minor, Op. 11, No. 10, “Lezghinka” (Lyapunov) 7:33
17 September 1944; New York City; WNYC Studio Broadcast; unpublished
Mark Hambourg (1879–1960)
Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23 (Tchaikovsky)
5. I. Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso—Allegro con spirito 17:52
6. II. Andantino semplice—Prestissimo—Tempo I 6:31
7. III. Allegro con fuoco—Molto meno mosso—Allegro vivo 6:54
25 February 1955; London; BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Sargent; unpublished
Arnold Dolmetsch (1858–1940)
Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2, “Moonlight” (Beethoven)
8. I: Adagio sostenuto 5:07
ca. 1933; location unknown; (19/18) Dolmetsch Recording No. 8
Etelka Freund (1879–1977)
Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 57, “Appassionata” (Beethoven)
9. I. Allegro assai 9:11
10. II. Andante con moto 5:36
11. III. Allegro, ma non troppo—Presto 7:52
29 September 1951; New York City; WNYC Studio Broadcast; unpublished
Grace Castagnetta (1912–1998)
12. Improvisation on four notes (Castagnetta) 3:47
20 July 1944; New York City; Concert Broadcast; unpublished

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