Sunday, November 6, 2016

Benno Moiseiwitsch Plays Chopin

We’ve reached volume eleven in Naxos’s exhilarating trawl through Moiseiwitsch’s discography. This one is given over to Chopin recordings made between 1916 and ’27. Ten are acoustic, the last recorded in Hayes in 1922 ; the electrics begin with the Scherzo in B-Flat minor which was recorded in December 1925. We live in rich times for admirers of the pianist. Both Naxos and APR have mutually supportive reissue series on their books and the collector can happily select from an array of remasterings. Pearl put out the complete acoustic recordings a number of years ago in their typically rougher transfers — but the two-disc set did have the virtue of being a comprehensive collection (see review).
Moiseiwitsch’s Chopin is replete with an Old School compendium of personalised approaches. The famous desynchronised hands of course and, as I noted in my Pearl review, the somewhat cavalier approach to textual fidelity — at least when seen from a more purist eyrie. The E minor Nocturne has its full complement of Benno-ised embellishments for instance. And he certainly predated Earl Wild in his tinkering with Chopin’s keys – pushing things up higher when the fancy took him, though these things were generally done in good taste, if you allow him the indulgence. The B-Flat minor Scherzo attests to the fact that even Moiseiwitsch had his splashy days. Those who may remember his performances and recordings at the end of the Second War will know how his playing had suffered after the unremitting demands of wartime performances, flogging up and down the country. But even earlier he could, like any artist, have his bad days. The Scherzo is an unusually error-strewn performance though for this early period. But the Etudes are beautifully accomplished and refined ornaments. We also have the luxury of two performances of the G-Flat major Waltz — one take was issued on HMV, the other on Victor — and the F-Sharp Impromptu where a similar situation pertained to the British and American recordings.
Half the performances in this volume are acoustic and half electric. Some have been remastered and reissued by APR, as well as by Pearl. Naxos’ work is that much more immediate and visceral than APR’s. It’s more open as well, with greater bass and treble definition. APR’s work is attractive but sounds confined and is less recommendable than Naxos’s. Pearl’s comprehensive set includes all the acoustics but obviously not the electric recordings and doesn’t include both acoustic takes of the Waltz and Impromptu. Their steelier work is altogether more astringent and is actually less immediate than the Naxos — to which company I recommend you for this glittering, idiosyncratic, aristocratic and wilfully wonderful selection.
Jonathan Woolf

Source :

Benno Moiseiwitsch
Frédéric Chopin
(Great Pianists, vol. 11, 12 & 13 ]


Cd. 1

Great Pianists, vol. 11
Chopin Recordings, vol. 1

HMV Acoustic Recordings

1 Berceuse in D-Flat Major, Op. 57  4:04
2 Prelude n° 20 in C Minor, Op. 28, n° 20  1:36
3 Waltz n° 6 in D-Flat Major, Op 64, n° 1  1:35
4 Waltz n° 11 in G-Flat Major, Op. 70, n° 1  2:16
5 Waltz n° 11 in G-Flat Major, Op. 70, n° 1  2:18
6 Impromptu n° 2 in F-Sharp Major, Op. 36  4:46
7 Impromptu n° 2 in F-Sharp Major, Op. 36  4:35
8 Nocturne n° 19 in E Mnor, Op. 71, n° 1  4:05
9 Mazurka n° 51 in A Minor, Op. posth. "A Emile Gaillard"  3:03
10 Meine Freunden (My Joys), from Op. 74  4:15
(6 Chants Polonais, S. 480)
(arr. Liszt)

HMV Electrical Recordings

11 Scherzo n° 2 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 31  8:50
12 Impromptu n° 1 in A-Flat Major, Op. 29  3:46
13 Waltz n° 14 in E Minor, Op. posth.  3:15
14 Etude n° 11 in E-Flat Major, Op. 10, n° 11  2:16
15 Etude n° 4 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 10, n° 4  2:03
16 Etude n° 15 in F Major, Op. 25, n° 3  1:58
17 Etude n° 19 in A-Flat Major, Op. 10, n° 10  2:10
18 Polonaise n° 9 in B-Flat Makor, Op. 71, n° 2  4:26
19 Ballade n° 3 in A-Flat Major, Op. 47  7:43


Benno Moiseiwitsch - p

Recorded at Hayes, Middlesex ; between May 10, 1916 & July 18, 1922 ; & C Studio, Queen's Small Hall, London ; between December 10, 1925 & February 7, 1927


This second volume of Moiseiwitsch’s Chopin recordings focuses on the complete Préludes, Op. 28, which the great pianist had attempted to record, unsuccessfully, with the acoustic process, and the Four Ballades. The recording of the complete Préludes is one of the most satisfactory on disc, as Moiseiwitsch captures perfectly the mood of each of these miniature masterpieces. The slower preludes in particular show Moiseiwitsch’s understanding of musical phrasing linked to harmonic progressions. In combination with his ideal projection of the singing line, this gives the impression that the music is a living and breathing entity. In the faster preludes, particularly N° 16 and N° 24, Moiseiwitsch never loses control of tempo or dynamics and the ornaments and figuration of the last Prélude become part of the organic whole. The recording of the Ballade n° 4, his only 78rpm recording of the work, derives from a test pressing.

Source :

Cd. 2

Great Pianists, vol. 12
Chopin Recordings, vol. 2

24 Preludes, Op. 28
1 N° 1 in C major, Agitato  0:35
2 N° 2 in A minor, Lento  1:53
3 N° 3 in G major, Vivace  0:55
4 N° 4 in E minor, Largo  2:02
5 N° 5 in D major, Molto allegro  0:34
6 N° 6 in B minor, Lento assai  1:51
7 N° 7 in A major, Andantino  0:48
8 N° 8 in F-Sharp minor, Molto agitato  1:52
9 N° 9 in E major, Largo  1:15
10 N° 10 in C-Sharp minor, Molto allegro  0:29
11 N° 11 in B major, Vivace  0:30
12 N° 12 in G-Sharp minor, Presto  1:10
13 N° 13 in F-Sharp major, Lento  2:32
14 N° 14 in E-Flat minor, Allegro  0:34
15 N° 15 in D-Flat major ('Raindrop Prelude'), Sostenuto  4:54
16 N° 16 in B-Flat minor, Presto con fuoco  1:05
17 N° 17 in A-Flat major, Allegretto  2:46
18 N° 18 in F minor, Molto allegro  0:54
19 N° 19 in E-Flat major, Vivace  1:14
20 N° 20 in C minor, Largo  1:24
21 N° 21 in B-Flat major, Cantabile  1:59
22 N° 22 in G minor, Molto agitato  0:42
23 N° 23 in F major, Moderato  0:46
24 N° 24 in D minor, Allegro appassionato  2:17

The Four Ballades
25 N° 1 in G Minor, Op. 23  8:18
26 N° 2 in F Major, Op. 38  7:03
27 N° 3 in A-Flat Major, Op. 47  7:05
28 N° 4 in F Minor, Op. 52  9:20

29 Fantasie-Impromptu in C-Sharp Minor,, Op. 66  4:38


Benno Moiseiwitsch - p

Recorded in Studio 3, Abbey Road, London ; between September 23, 1938 & January 11, 1952


This extensive series has developed a sub-genre of discs devoted to Moiseiwitsch’s Chopin recordings, hence the rather unwieldy disc title. It’s the thirteenth volume in Naxos’s laudable restorations and the third in the Chopin series.
The performances were recorded between 1939 and 1952 and enshrine the pianist’s elevated poeticism in abundance. The fabled burnish of his tone was well captured by the engineers of the time and has been equally well presented in these transfers. A comparison with APR’s series [5575, which contains the E-Flat Nocturne, and 5576 which contains five others] is strongly in Naxos and Ward Marston’s favour. Not only did APR employ a greater level of noise reduction, but also there’s greater clarity in Naxos’s work which ensures that the luminosity of the pianist’s tone is honoured.
The performances themselves delight in his often wicked turns of phrase, that patrician, unruffled exterior harbouring a phalanx of devices that vest the playing with such personality and allure. He’s certainly not above a few textual emendations, but these are all put to delightful use, and if Edwin Fischer can engage in bass octave doubling in the Well Tempered Clavier, I’m sure the same generosity of spirit can be extended to his Russian contemporary.
The Barcarolle in F-Sharp can be heard in two performances. The first was not issued on 78 and has a small degree of surface noise but is eminently listenable. There are small difference of phrasal emphases between this and the released 1941 version, and one of the pleasures of listening lies in contrasting them. He’d recorded the B-Flat Polonaise in 1927 and his performance remains a fulcrum of fluidity and colour. The pealing roundness of his tone can be savoured in the E-Flat Nocturne. It’s a matter of regret that in his September 1949 sessions he only recorded three of the Scherzi, omitting N° 2, but the three that he did set down are marvellously evocative. The Fourth, in E Major, has a Rachmaninovian directness of purpose, total tonal congruity and flexibility that mark out only the very finest of players. It’s notable that he is consistently faster than Rubinstein’s 1959 traversals, albeit Moisewitsch was the younger performer at the time of their respective recordings ; they were near contemporaries. This disc also makes room for one of the pianist’s most famous discs, A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s "Scherzo", arranged by Sergei Rachmaninoff, and played with magnificent felicity.
Given the repertoire and the superior transfers, no lover of the Russian pianist’s bewitching art should neglect at least some of this first-class series.
Jonathan Woolf

Source :

Cd. 3

Great Pianists, vol. 13
Chopin Recordings, vol. 3

1 Barcarolle in F-Sharp Major, Op. 60  7:52
2 Barcarolle in F-Sharp Major, Op. 60  7:56
3 Polonaise n° 9 in B-Flat Major, Op. 71, n° 2  5:24
4 Nocturne n° 2 in E-Flat Major, Op. 9, n° 2  4:30
5 Nocturne n° 19 in E Minor, Op. 72, n° 1  4:15
6 Scherzo n° 1 in B Minor, Op. 20  8:44
7 Scherzo n° 3 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 39  7:03
8 Scherzo n° 4 in E Major, Op. 54  9:14


Felix Mendelssohn

9 Scherzo (from A Midsummer Night's Dream)  4:17
(arr. Rachmaninov)


Benno Moiseiwitsch - p

Recorded in Studio 3, Abbey Road, London ; between March 17, 1939 & January 11, 1952

See the complete artwork


Melanchthon said...

Cd. 1 (Great Pianists, vol. 11)

Cd. 2 (Great Pianists, vol. 12)

Cd. 3 (Great Pianists, vol. 13)

Pedro del Castillo Alonso said...

Really great! Thank you very much Mel

Anonymous said...

Never enough Benno! Thank you so much, MM!

JLJ said...

Many thanks for your wonderful work!