, March 2007
Pure gold from a bygone age
Vol 10 of Naxos's "Great Pianists" consists of 21 bonnes bouches with which the incomparable ,Moiseiwitsch enchanted his adoring audiences down the years. And, as a crowning touch, there is Mendelssohn's First Concerto full of oldfashioned touches in the central Andante (repeated desynchronisation of the hands) but with a finale tossed aside with all of his legendary legerdemain and leaving most of his rivals at the starting-post.
Elsewhere you can hear a jackdaw's nest of performances where the merest trinket is turned into purest gold. In Rameau, Scarlatti-Tausig, Schumann-Liszt, Moszkowski and Scriabin, you witness an aristocratic pianism that has all but vanished from our more impersonal, contrived and democratically inclined age. Weber's Moto perpetuo is spun off with a dexterity that can make many of today's pianists seem arthritic, and Palmgren's West Finnish Dance gleams with an interior magic that at the same time eschews all artifice. Debussy's Clair de lune is offered in a freely romantic style frowned on by today's severer taste, and if Ravel's Jeux d'eau is rushed and the middle section of Schumann's Traumeswirren is oddly lethargic, even these readings are treasurable and endearing. The 1916-25 recordings may sound dated but the performances are for ever.