RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30. BACH: Suite, BWV 818. MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition. MOZART: Sonata No. 16 in B flat, K. 570. DEBUSSY: Suite bergamasque. CHOPIN: Barcarolle, Op. 60. Nocturne, Op. 55 No. 2. Scherzo No. 1 in B minor, Op. 20. PROKOFIEV: Sonata No. 7 in B flat, Op. 83.
William Kapell, pianist; Victorian Symphony Orch/Sir Bernard Heinze, cond. (Rachmaninoff)
RCA RED SEAL 68560 (2 disks) TT: 77:30 & 73:12
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CHOPIN: 10 Preludes, Op. 28. Barcarolle in F sharp, Op. 60. Nocturne No. 4 in F, Op. 15 No. 1. Polonaise No. 7 in A flat, Op. 61 "Polonaise-Fantaisie." LISZT: Sonata in B minor. Polonaise No. 2 in E. Scherzo in G minor. Trübe Wolken. Consolation No. 6. Hungarian Rhapsody No. 17. Klavierstück in F sharp. Mephisto Polka. 8 Transcendental Etudes. Un sospiro. Gnomenreigen.
Sviatoslav Richter, pianist
DECCA 475 8637 (2 disks) TT: 70:22 & 75:23
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CHOPIN: Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58. Mazurkas, Op. 59. Barcarolle in F sharp, Op. 60. Grande Valse Brillante in E flat, Op. 18. 3 Waltzes, Op. 64. Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52.
Ingrid Fliter, pianist
EMI CLASSICS 10489 TT: 75:32
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Three major issues for pianophiles! The William Kapell set is particularly important as it contains music he never recorded commercially, in particular Chopin's Barcarolle and Scherzo No. 1, Debussy's Children's Corner Suite, and Prokofiev's Sonata No. 7, as well as God Save the Queen which was at the time Australia's national anthem. Jon M. Samuels (who also produced the BMG 9-CD Kapell set a decade ago which, fortunately, is still available), explains the various problems of restoring the performances from original broadcasts made during Kapell's Australian tour in late summer and early Autumn of 1953. In October of that year he died in a plane crash near San Francisco on his return to the U.S., a tragic loss to the music world. Now we have two performances of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3, this new one with the Victorian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Bernard Heinze (who was a major conductor in Australia at the time), as well as a performance from April 13, 1948, with the Toronto Symphony directed by Sir Ernest MacMillan (available on Vai Audio 1027). I wish there had been a broadcast of a performance I heard many years ago with Kapell and the Chicago Symphony under guest conductor Eugene Ormandy—what a performance that was! Kapell plays the lighter version of the first movement cadenza, and there are a few other minor cuts that were standard at the time. His demonic approach to Prokofiev is evident in this searing performance of Sonata No. 7; equally outstanding is his dazzling performance of the Chopin scherzo. This is an essential set in piano collections.

Decca has issued two generously-filled disks of performances by Sviatoslav Richter continuing their series of twin-CD sets called Richter The Master. This one is volume 10 featuring recordings made in 1988, mostly Liszt including his mighty playing of the Sonata in B minor and eight Transcendental Etudes, as well as Chopin, all capturing the pianist in peak form.

Argentinian pianist Ingrid Fliter has attracted much attention and for good reason. She already can be heard on VAI—two CDs as well as a DVD playing mostly music in which she specializes—Chopin. Recognizing her artistry, EMI has signed her to an exclusive contract and here is her first disk, all-Chopin, recorded last year in Suffolk. It is most impressive in all aspects. This is among the finest performances I've heard of the Sonata No. 3 (William Kapell's is among the other few), and I prefer her leisurely interpretation of Barcarolle to either Kapell's or Richter's. Her rich sound has been vividly captured by producer John Fraser.

R.E.B. (May 2008)