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Kapell Rediscovered
Sergey Rachmaninov, Johann Sebastian Bach, Modest Mussorgsky
Kapell Rediscovered
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (23) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #2


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Kapell's Discovered Treasures
Hank Drake | Cleveland, OH United States | 05/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Willy was beyond a doubt the greatest pianistic talent this country [USA] has ever produced." Leon Fleischer

America has seen its share of pianistic careers cut short for varying reasons: whether due to burnout (Van Cliburn), hand injuries (Leon Fleischer, Gary Graffman), or other ailments (Byron Janis). Even Murray Perahia, arguably the best American pianist active today, has battled stress related hand problems over the last 15 years. No piano career ended more tragically than William Kapell's, who died in a plane crash in 1953.

Kapell was returning home from a tour of Australia when his plane crashed into a mountain just south of Half Moon Bay, California. Twenty years ago, an off the air recording of Chopin's B-flat Minor Sonata from that last tour emerged, and rumors have floated for years about other Australian Kapell recordings. This two CD set contains those performances, the last recorded examples of Kapell's work.

Much has been written about the "new" Kapell that emerged in the last two years of his life, one less focused on keyboard pyrotechnics and gravitating toward the traditional German masters and a more contemplative style. Kapell's performance of the Bach Suite points toward the future in that his approach has similarities to Glenn Gould's, minus the Canadian pianist's insufferable vocalizing. The Mozart Sonata is played with clarity, tasteful phrasing, and a discrete rhythmic snap. It is poles apart from the Rococo, porcelain doll approach which was already falling out of favor.

It's neither inaccurate nor demeaning of Kapell to note that the pianist was somewhat under the spell of Vladimir Horowitz. Nearly every American pianist of the time was. (Kapell wanted to study with Horowitz, but the elder pianist demured, stating there was nothing he could teach Kapell.) Both the Prokofiev Seventh Sonata and Chopin Scherzo have Horowitzian touches, including interlocking octaves at the end of the Scherzo.

Whatever his similarities with Horowitz, Kapell was his own man in Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. The pianist plays the score, which was seldom performed as a piano piece at the time, pretty much as written. His performance is easily on par with Richter's famed Sofia account.

It is not Horowitz I think of when hearing Kapell's performance of the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto, but the composer. Kapell has that same aristocratic, yet restless approach. Unfortunately, Kapell employs the cuts in the score used by the composer. It's intriguing to think what a 40 year old Kapell, (circa 1962) would have done with this music.

Recorded off the air by an amateur using a home disc cutting machine, the sound is problematic. There is a great deal of static, clicks, and pops, as well as what sounds like cross talk with another radio station (audible during quieter pieces). Signal to noise ratio is poor, and a few moments have had to be patched from other Kapell recordings. Kapell fans will not be fazed by this, but those who insist on perfect sonics may find their enjoyment of these remarkable performances impaired."
Lackluster Sound in Kapell reDiscovered
Music Antiquarian | New York City | 05/16/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)

""William Kapell rediscovered," is the final legacy of perhaps America's finest home grown piano virtuoso and one of the most significant "live" finds in the last decade. From the outset, I had to have this set. However, there are two sides to this recording, the first is the miraculous musicianship, insight and power of Kapell's reading of the Rachmaninoff 3rd. (The balance of the two discs are equally fine as well) However, it is a shame that Sony BMG and the Kapell Family allowed the release of this recording with minimal to poor restorative engineering of the Rachmaninoff 3rd. The recording is full of static crackle, tape hiss and over modulation throughout. The patch in the final movement of the Rachmaninoff is the most amateurish engineering I have ever heard on a professional was as if there was no attempt to seamlessly link the two. A proper sound engineer who knew his business would have preserved the sound of the instrument and Kapell's nuances and also removed much of the excessive surface noise, drops and seamlessly patched other recordings in as required. With today's technology, there is no longer an excuse for lackluster sound engineering, with the exception of budget.

Perfect Classical Piano
Roger H. Werner | Stockton, California, USA | 05/11/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I happened to catch All Things Considered (Saturday 10 May 2008). They had a discussion of William Kapell (William Kapell recordings turn up down under -- [...]). I have loved classical music for decades but I had never heard of William Kapell. NPR played portions of Kapell's recordings and they can be heard at indicated web site. I have to say the music was astounding. This album represents music played on Kapell's final tour (before he was killed in a plane crash. I'm not easy to impress but Kapell impresses and that's understatement. Some of the music is scratchy (for example, Mozart Sonta in B Flat for example) but this in no way detracts from the presentation (think of listening to classical music on old 78 rpm recordings). Kapell plays classical piano the way piano should be played but rarely is. Don't take my word for it: Listen to the NPR discussion. One music critic called Kapell's play about as close to perfect piano as is humanly possible to achieve; no arguments from me...WOW!"