On the face of it, it seems strange that a worldly-wise, successful composer like Stravinsky should lock himself away for hours in a small studio and arrange his own music for the pianola. Everyone knows, don't they, that pianolas (a somewhat less than generic term for player pianos) sound like beat-up old honky-tonks, drowning any musical inspiration with the squeaking of their gears and the wheezing of their pedals!
Well, have we got news for you! Pianolas don't always play with an inexorable tempo and at triple forte; they can and should sound as musically sensitive as any other instrument, and Stravinsky himself enjoyed playing them. Over the past forty years there have been so many false descriptions and loud recordings of the pianola that public perception of the instrument is a travesty of what was originally intended. To be sure, there were cheap pianolas to be had, but the majority of instruments were installed in high-class pianos and often cost as much as luxury automobiles. As you listen to Petrushka and The Rite of Spring, we hope that this program note may help to change your mind about a frequently and unjustly maligned musical instrument.
“Unlike the fully automated rolls created by Rachmaninov, Stravinsky's require a player to control the mechanism, in this case Rex Lawson who works wonders in bringing these paper rolls fully to life.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.