, October 2001
"Naxos Historical, an ever-expanding and invaluable budget line of great recordings from past eras, has put us in its debt by issuing two anthologies of early Moiseiwitsch performances restored by the respected sound engineer Ward Marston. Classical music lovers and collectors of vinyl discs may well know Moiseiwitsch from his later work on EMI and American Capitol LPs which were made at a time when the pianist was past his prime, though still radiating an exquisitely civilized old-world sensibility. The material on the Naxos CDs brings to light much rarer material, most of it from the late '20s to the early '40s, and they elucidate what refined musicianship Moiseiwitsch commanded in his maturity.
All of Moiseiwitsch's exemplary qualities are readily apparent in his performance of Brahms' Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel. In Variation 8, for example, we delight in the swiftest and most meticulous little fluttering, ornamental flourishes and note that though the pianist plays with as clean and even a touch as we can possibly imagine, he achieves this supreme control without any loss of character in the music. This evenness of touch is accomplished without any loss of variety either: in Variation 12, the notes almost seem to be plucked rather than struck. Here, and elsewhere in this performance, quite literally every note counts. In Variation 15, one recognizes the intuitive sense of timing of which he was proud, for the episode possesses marvelously vivacious rhythmic character without any sense of exaggeration. The rhythmic life of the music seems innate, not applied. Variation 22 offers examples of manual dexterity that cede both a breath-taking shimmering surface as well as layering of shading underneath. And the final fugue does not merely explore the structural form in a bold or academic way, but offers almost all the colour that one hears from the bells ringing at the Great Gate of Kiev in Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition...
Miracles abound -- and there's inadequate space to comment on them. Just listen to the utter clarity and naturally breathing rubato of the Schumann Kinderszenen here and you will, I am sure, share my enthusiasm."