David's Review Corner
, June 2010
Though regarded as one of the most perceptive Chopin interpreters of his generation, Benno Moiseiwitsch, was somewhat choosy in the works that he included in his repertoire. Born in Russia in 1890, winner of the prestigious Anton Rubinstein prize at the age of nine, he was eighteen when he made his UK debut. It was a country he made his home in his later life, and with a dearth of pianist talent in his adopted home, he became regarded as the country’s finest virtuoso. It was at London’s Abbey Road Studio, between 1939 and 1952, that he made the recordings in this third volume of his Chopin discs. Unlike many other celebrated Chopin pianists, of which Cortot was the best known, Moiseiwitsch took a quite literal view, particularly in questions of dynamics, his only substantial deviation coming in a slowing at the end of decorative filigree passages. The major part of the disc is given to three Scherzi. These are outstanding, the mercurial pages dispatched with considerable brio and good humour, and I love the skittish approach to the First. Ever present is the element of drama, and when Chopin introduces outgoing virtuosity Moiseiwitsch never disappoints. He takes risks, and they are not note perfect, but it matters little, for they stand by the side of any other outstanding version in the catalogue. Recorded in 1949, the sound was good for its time, the lower octaves ideally caught.The disc opens with two versions of the Barcarolle in F sharp, one rejected and one authorised for issue, though without detailed scrutiny they seem much the same. The Nocturnes are rather plain, the second with a lumpy left hand, but I do like the sprightly ninth Polonaise. As an encore we have the Scherzo from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.