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 Recording of the Week  Great Pianists of the Past

I often use these Newsletters to tell you about some of the latest new recordings that I think are a bit special or unique in some way, and therefore deserve a special mention. Well this week the special and unique bit still counts but I’m looking further back - in fact a lot further back – to recordings of pianists made mainly in the first half of the last century. The idea came to me a few weeks ago when I wrote about the Polish-born pianist and composer Leopold Godowsky (Presto News 28th July 2008). As part of my research that week I read a lot about his life; the pianists he had studied with; the ones he had taught; and how he had succeeded Busoni for the directorship of the Piano School at Vienna’s Kaiserliche Akademie für Musik, arguably one of the most prestigious teaching posts in the world (the position carried with it the rank of honorary colonel and was directly answerable to the Emperor!).

As a result of that reading I became quite interested in listening to older piano recordings, hearing the pianists who were in their time considered some of the leaders of their art. I’ve found it fascinating comparing these recordings not only to each other, but also to more modern recordings, hearing how tempos have generally got slower, but rhythms have got tighter. And above all appreciating the skill and musicality of some of those great names from the past, in many ways much more emotionally direct to the listener than their more modern contemporaries.

Another huge skill I’ve come to appreciate is that of the transfer engineers. The ability to restore and transfer old 78s and original masters onto CDs which sound the best they possibly can is not an easy job, and the likes of Mark Obert-Thorn and Ward Marston of Naxos Historical have my utmost respect.

To celebrate the great pianists of the past (as well as the Transfer Engineers of today) we’ve secured special deals with four of the leading labels specialising in preserving historic piano recordings:

APR - Specialising in the earlier and often more unusual artists and repertoire.
Naxos Historical - Concentrating more on the ‘big’ names.
BBC Legends - Choosing generally slightly later recordings, all originally live BBC broadcasts.
Dal Segno - Dedicated to preserving the original piano roll recordings of the great classical composers and artists.

Until October 8th we’re offering up to 25% off them all and, bearing in mind a lot of them are already mid or budget price, now is most certainly a good time to appreciate some of the great pianists of the past. You can browse full details here.