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CD Review

Kapell Edition, Volume 4

William Kapell, piano
* Dallas Symphony Orchestra/Antál Doráti
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Serge Koussevitsky
RCA 09026-68993-2
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These recordings of the concertos have been issued and reissued many times by RCA. The Prokofieff Third was recorded in 1945 and may even have been heard by the composer – who died in 1953 – though there is no record of any commentary by him as there was for Horowitz's famous – and I think unjustly praised – recording of his 7th Sonata. Prokofieff called Horowitz "miraculous" – maybe I'm wrong and the recording is as good as so many have claimed. Actually, I don't think so, but that's not the issue at hand. In this performance of the Prokofieff Third, Kapell delivers the fastest one I know of – and I probably have thirty-five or forty CDs and LPs of it for comparison, which, I suppose, divulges my addiction to this concerto – and to the composer. In any event, Kapell, at 25:12, doesn't sound egregiously fast, as Argerich did in places in her first (DG) recording or Browning in his first (EMI) effort, both from decades ago. True, Kapell pushes the big Romantic theme in the finale a bit, but so did Janis (Mercury) and others.

Kapell was an intense artist, with powerful technique. He also possessed sufficient interpretive acumen to allow him to play a range of repertory, from Beethoven and Liszt to what was then contemporary – Prokofieff and the Russians. His Khachaturian, from 1946, is surpassed by Jemelik (Urania – apparently deleted) and Yablonskaya (Naxos). Still, his rendering is one of the better ones. His performance, from 1949, of the Shostakovich Préludes, interesting but ultimately inferior works, is also compelling. The sound is good for the time on all performances, but the Khachaturian contains surface noise, as if transferred from a noisy LP. Recommended to fans of this excellent pianist and to those wanting to sample splendid pianism from yesteryear.

Copyright © 2000, Robert Cummings