Crossing the divide in the company of good (piano) music

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Victor III
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Crossing the divide in the company of good (piano) music

Post by drh »

I usually avoid doing this kind of thing, but I'm going to repost something I wrote for another forum, because on reflection it seems at least as appropriate here, too.

Last night, starting around 11:30 or so, to mark the crossing of boundaries from 2020 ( :x ) to 2021 ( :?: ), I turned to my 78s and enjoyed Bach's English Suite no. 2 performed by Harold Samuel (1926, abridged, shorn of its bourees to fit four record sides) and Schumann's Kinderscenen by Benno Moiseiwitsch (1930). Samuel didn't make a lot of records and isn't much remembered outside historical recording buff circles--indeed, not necessarily all that well even there--but in his day he occupied a position analogous to that of Andras Schiff today, the leading Bach specialist among pianists. He gives us the English Suite in a somewhat old-fashioned-Bach sort of way, certainly not for today's purist-minded but not extremely romanticized, either, lovely if taken on its own terms. Bach played as piano music, not as harpsichord music on a suppressed piano. Give me that over the desiccated Angela Hewitt approach any day! Too bad about the excision of the bourees. As to the Schumann, well, it just brought home to me again why I love Moiseiwitsch performances. What a magician the man was! To my ear, this is the way Schumann should sound, a perfect antidote to the hard-faced Ashkenazy recordings our local NPR affiliate trots out more often than not when offering Schumann solo piano fare, and very bad cess to Jed Distler for dumping on the performance in his online review of a Naxos reissue. I copied my records as I played them and will add my transfers to my computer server after editing out side breaks in due course. As an aside, I have a Testament issue of Moiseiwitsch material that includes some interviews with the artist, and he repeatedly averred that Schumann was his favorite composer. From this recording, it shows. Even the grossly overplayed "Traumerei" comes off as fresh and beautiful. In short, good stuff.

With all that said, all the best wishes for 2021 to my fellow denizens of the Talking Machine Forum!

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