|About this Recording
8.111117 - CHOPIN: Piano Works (Moiseiwitsch, Vol. 11) (1916-1927)
Great Pianists: Benno Moiseiwitsch (1890-1963), Volume 11
Benno Moiseiwitsch was born in 'the cradle of Russian pianism' Odessa, in 1890. At the age of nine he won the Anton Rubinstein prize, and after being told by the Guildhall School of Music in London that they could teach him nothing, he went, at the age of fourteen, to Vienna where he studied with the great teacher Theodore Leschetizky. At first Leschetizky told young Benno that he could play better with his feet, but Benno was undeterred and spent nearly two years in Vienna perfecting his art with the great master. His British début was in Reading in 1908 and his London début took place two years later. From 1919 he toured Europe and the United States regularly and had an international career that took him to every corner of the world.
The previous volume of Moiseiwitsch recordings in this series contained those made by the acoustic process between 1916 and 1925 (8.111116) and this volume continues with more acoustic recordings (together with some early electric recordings) of works specifically by Chopin. Moiseiwitsch declared that Schumann was his favourite composer and he was undoubtedly a master at the interpretation of this composer's works. In the public's perception, however, Moiseiwitsch was predominantly identified with the music of Chopin and his very first recording, made on 13 April 1916, was of Chopin's Berceuse, Op. 57. That particular recording was not issued, but a month later on 10 May 1916 he recorded it again and this version was issued. Two years later Moiseiwitsch coupled two short works on a single side of a disc, the Prelude in C minor, Op. 28, No. 20 and the Waltz in D flat, Op. 64, No. 1. Although three consecutive attempts were made, the published take was the first. The next time Moiseiwitsch recorded more works of Chopin was three years later in June of 1921. By now he had made his début in America and was a well-established and respected artist. Chopin's Impromptu in F sharp, Op. 36, posed something of a problem: Moiseiwitsch recorded three consecutive takes of it on 28 June and three more on 19 September 1921. The difficulty may have had something to do with fitting the work onto one side of a disc as it was not until a recording session of 10 November that the seventh attempt was approved for publication; a piano-tuner was obviously not available. Indeed, at more than four and a half minutes, the duration pushed the limit of a 78 rpm side. Interestingly, take seven, which was issued in Britain, is some ten seconds shorter than take six which was issued in America and both may be heard here for comparison. It should be borne in mind that during the era of 78 rpm discs more than one take could be approved by the artist, so discs could be stamped from any of the approved masters. This happened also when a stamper wore out from excessive use (if it was a popular title that sold well) so that later pressings of the same work could actually be a different take and therefore different recording and performance.
During November and December of 1921 Moiseiwitsch recorded Chopin's complete Preludes, Op. 28, but these were never released. There were also attempts to record some of the Etudes from both Op. 10 and Op. 25 and the Scherzo from the B minor Piano Sonata, Op. 58, but again, none of this was published.
The public expected to hear the music of Chopin at a Moiseiwitsch recital and he often programmed a few Etudes and Preludes, perhaps a Nocturne or Waltz, and often a larger work such as a Ballade or Impromptu. At the Queen's Hall in London on 14 September 1921 he played three Preludes, two Etudes and the Ballade in F minor, Op. 52, whilst on a following tour of Britain he played the Impromptu in F sharp, Op. 36 and the Ballade in F minor, Op. 52. By doing this Moiseiwitsch was able to vary his programme and not become bored with playing the same pieces night after night, and also play works that would appeal to particular audiences; he often played the more popular works of Chopin such as the Fantasie-Impromptu, Op. 66, when on provincial tours. As his reputation as a Chopin player grew, Moiseiwitsch gave complete recitals of the music of Chopin. At the Queen's Hall on 18 June 1921 he played a programme that began with six Etudes (including Op. 25 No. 6, the double thirds etude), and continued with the Piano Sonata in B flat minor, Op. 35. The next group of pieces was headed by the Fantasie in F minor, Op. 49, then followed the Impromptus in A flat and F sharp and the Ballade in A flat, Op. 47. The final group of pieces contained the Waltz in A flat, Op. 34, No. 1, the E major Nocturne, six Preludes, the Berceuse, Op. 57, and the Scherzo in B minor, Op. 20. This sort of programme could easily be varied by substitution: at Liverpool on the 28 March 1922 six Preludes replaced the opening six Etudes, he played the B minor Sonata instead of the B flat minor Sonata, the G minor Ballade instead of the F minor Fantasie, and the F minor Ballade in place of the A flat.
Another Queen's Hall recital on 8 December 1921 was a Chopin-Liszt affair. Moiseiwitsch opened with a Chant-Polonais, followed this with the Piano Sonata in B minor by Liszt, the twenty-four Preludes of Chopin, Liszt's Feux-Follets and arrangement of Wagner's Tannhäuser Overture. The Chant-Polonais No. 5, My Joys, can be heard here.
The Queen's Hall Chopin recitals became an annual event and on 24 June 1922 Moiseiwitsch played his usual varied programme which culminated with the Polonaise in A flat, Op. 53. Of interest in this programme was the inclusion of a Mazurka, ( à Emile Gaillard, in A minor ) something unusual for a Moiseiwitsch programme. Fortunately he recorded it for HMV a few weeks later on 18 July 1922. He continued to programme this one Mazurka for the next two years and then substituted the Mazurka in C sharp minor, Op. 63, No. 3, but after a few months it disappeared from his programmes and apart from the A minor work, which he continued to programme during the 1920s, by the 1930s the Mazurkas rarely appeared on Moiseiwitsch's programmes. With his reputation as a Chopin player it is also strange to see that he does not appear to have played either of the Piano Concertos and hearing a recording as passionate and committed as that of the Nocturne in E minor, Op. 72, No. 1, makes one wonder how he would have interpreted these works.
Moiseiwitsch's first recording sessions using the sonically superior electrical process were made in October 1925. Perhaps there were technical difficulties with the new process as nothing was issued from these sessions. From the session of 10 December, however, come his first electrical recordings of Chopin in the form of the Scherzo in B flat minor, Op. 31. Although afflicted at the beginning with pre-echo the improvement in sound quality is immediately noticeable. A group of Etudes from February 1927 make one wish he had recorded Chopin's complete Etudes. The Polonaise in B flat was a favourite work of Moiseiwitsch's teacher Theodore Leschetizky who taught it to all his students; indeed, there are recordings of this rarely heard work by other Leschetizky pupils Mark Hambourg and Ignaz Friedman.
© 2007 Jonathan Summers
HMV Acoustic Recordings, 1916-1922
Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57
Prelude No. 20 in C minor, Op. 28 No. 20
Waltz No. 6 in D flat major, Op. 64 No. 1 “Minute”
Waltz No. 11 in G flat major, Op. 70 No. 1
Waltz No. 11 in G flat major, Op. 70 No. 1
Impromptu No. 2 in F sharp major, Op. 36
Impromptu No. 2 in F sharp major, Op. 36
Nocturne No. 19 in E minor, Op. 72 No. 1
Mazurka No. 51 in A minor, Op. posth. “A Emile Gaillard”
CHOPIN-LISZT: 6 chants polonais, S.480/R145 (From Op. 74) No. 5 Meine Freuden (My Joys)
HMV Electrical Recordings, 1925-1927
Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 31
Impromptu No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 29
Waltz No. 14 in E minor, Op. posth.
Etude No. 11 in E flat major, Op. 10 No. 11
Etude No. 4 in C sharp minor, Op. 10 No. 4
Etude No. 15 in F major, Op. 25 No. 3
Etude No. 10 in A flat major, Op. 10 No. 10
Polonaise No. 9 in B flat major, Op. 71 No. 2
Ballade No. 3 in A flat major, Op. 47
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