Vol. 7 in the Moiseiwitsch edition of Naxos features this great pianist in the repertoire, where he had few peers - Rachmaninov and Medtner. Both composers were his compatriots and friends. This CD is indispensable for every lover of Rachmaninov's music and for Moiseiwitsch's mavens, since it includes 8 tracks with Rachmaninov's preludes and miniatures with Moiseiwitsch - the largest collection to be found on a single CD. The 9th item - Mendelssohn-Rachmaninov's Scherzo from `A Midsummer Night's Dream' is issued on Naxos Moiseiwitsch series, Vol. 2. On the Arbiter label (Arb 120) - see my review of this CD - Moiseiwitsch recollects a conversation with Rachmaninov: the composer suggested that his friend Benno L'vovich should record a short piece - this scherzo - which he, Rachmaninov, had failed to record successfully, despite many attempts. Later on, Moiseiwitsch recorded this scherzo (17.III.1939) - in an offhand manner, he thought - and it turned to be his best recording, in his own words! I regret that Rachmaninov did not ask Moiseiwitsch explicitly to record other his preludes...
I compared Rachmaninov's own selection of his miniatures with the choice of Moiseiwitsch. Rachmaninov: Op. 3 No.2 in C sharp minor, Op. 23. No.10 in G flat major, Op. 32. No. 3 in E major, Op. 32. No. 7 in F major, Op. 32 No. 12 in G sharp minor, Op. 23 No. 5 in G minor, Op. 32 No. 5 in G major, Moment musicaux Op. 16. No. 2 in E flat minor, Daisies Op. 38. No. 3, Lilacs Op. 21. No 5. Moiseiwitsch: Moment musicaux No. 4 in E minor, Op. 16 No. 4; Preludes in C sharp minor, Op. 3 No.2, in G minor Op. 23 No. 5, in B minor, Op. 32 No. 10 (2 takes), in G major, Op. 32 N. 5, in G sharp minor, Op. 32, No. 12; Lilacs Op. 21 No. 5. One can see that the only one prelude that Rachmaninov *did not* record is the B minor prelude Op. 32. No. 10, which *is* available with Moiseiwitsch. This is not accidental: according to Moiseiwitsch, this gloomy and nostalgic Lento was the favourite prelude of them both, and Rachmaninov liked the interpretation of his friend. Moiseiwitsch even guessed the program of the B minor prelude: this amazing story can be found in different sources, also in the liner notes to this CD. It is great to have two different takes of Moiseiwitsch's approach to this piece (rec. 1940) -- and he plays differently on them!
Another miniature not recorded by the composer himself, is Moment musicaux in E minor, Op. 16 No. 4 (rec. 1956). I can hardly imagine a more convincing account of this wild and demonic music. Here Moiseiwitsch's playing definitely does not lack any `forward impetus' Mr. Morrison spoke of in his authoritative review. One caveat: I generally like Ward Marston's transfers on Naxos, but in this case Paul Baily's transfer on Testament SBT 1196 is better. The Testament CD displays Benno's fantastic left-hand-work and dynamic accents at full, while Naxos CD offers a more sloppy and messy sound here.
A few words about the rest of the program. Nicolai Medtner was an outstanding composer and a very fine pianist, though not of Rachmaninov's or Moiseiwitsch's caliber. I think that his own recording of his Fairy tale in E minor Op. 34 No. 2 is at least not worse than this version w. Moiseiwitsch. It is nice that Moiseiwitsch decided to help his friend and recorded his Sonata in G minor, Op. 22. It is a large-scale composition, highly romantic, but not eclectic. Moiseiwitsch performs it gloriously, but I would like to listen to another transfer to learn more about Moiseiwitsch's pedaling and dynamics.
Dmitry Kabalevsky was a gifted and a very prolific Soviet composer. An infamous joke rooted in Heinrich Neuhaus - Svyatoslav Richter's milieu branded him as a `Shostakovich and Prokofiev for the poor', but I guess that most pianophils happened to enjoy a weaker music than his sonata in F, Op. 46. Finally, Khachaturian's `Sabre Dance' was a Soviet hit. Its piano version was a standard fare for all young virtuosi in my country, but Moiseiwitsch proves that one need not be young or be Soviet in order to play it brilliantly.
Highly recommended. A good sound and great performances for a modest prize.
Moiseiwitsch Plays Rachmaninov, Medtner, Kabalevsky, KhachaturianBenno MoiseiwitschBenno Moiseiwitsch: Chopin 24 Préludes; Schumann Kinderszenen