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William Kapell, Vol. 1: Rachmaninov & Khachaturian
Aram Khachaturian, Sergey Rachmaninov, Ernest MacMillan
William Kapell, Vol. 1: Rachmaninov & Khachaturian
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (6) - Disc #1


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CD Details

All Artists: Aram Khachaturian, Sergey Rachmaninov, Ernest MacMillan, Frank Black, William Kapell
Title: William Kapell, Vol. 1: Rachmaninov & Khachaturian
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Video Artists Int'l
Original Release Date: 1/1/1993
Re-Release Date: 6/15/1994
Genre: Classical
Styles: Chamber Music, Forms & Genres, Concertos, Historical Periods, Classical (c.1770-1830), Modern, 20th, & 21st Century, Instruments, Keyboard
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 089948102724

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CD Reviews

Rare brilliance, energy - a fine CD despite sound quality. | Tucson, Arizona | 09/06/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)

"These two piano concertos - the "Rach 3" and the Khatchaturian - demand a fire that few pianists can deliver. Luckily Kapell was well up to it. His brilliant rendition of the Rachmaninoff 3rd Piano Concerto - one of the most difficult and demanding ever written - is pure fire and energy, immensely satisfying to "Rach" lovers. Unfortunately, though, the sound quality is flawed by noise, both technical and audience (it's a re-issue of a 1948 live concert), and you have to ignore it to "get at" the music. It's well worth it, though - Kapell is in turn energetic, whimsical, fiery, playful, electrifying, always animated. By the reaction of the audience, you can tell they know they have just heard a most remarkable performance.Kapell's interpretation of the Khatchaturian concerto has been widely acclaimed as the definitive one, and it certainly captures Kapell's intensity and brilliance. Khatchaturian's unmistakable style derives many themes from Armenian folk music. Kapell is so marvelously integrated with the music that one might think he was Armenian (he was American). This CD also has less than optimal sound quality (it's a re-issue of a 1945 live concert) but again the quality of the music itself makes it worthwhile to "listen through" the background noise. Despite the sound quality, Kapell's remarkable musicianship makes this CD a valuable addition.Kapell's death at age 31 in a 1953 plane crash was an immense loss to music. At least we have his legacy of the many recordings of music from Bach to Khatchaturian. This particular CD is out of stock at the time of this writing, but if you want to know what "brilliant" means, you should try to find this recording and listen to it again and again."
Most incredible Rachmaninoff 3rd on record
Dan H. Miller | Houston, TX USA | 09/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"William Kapell's performances of the Rachmaninoff 3rd piano concerto are truly legendary. His performance of this work at Ravinia in 1947 is still talked about in reverent tones by those who were there (diminishing in number due to the passage of time). Kapell never recorded the work commercially, so all we have to date is this off-the-air radio check from 1948. Its sound is very rough, and apparently the master of this recording has further deteriorated since it was first released on LP by the International Piano Archives, in 1978.
No matter. Even with the scratchy sound, this recording more than aptly demonstrates Kapell's mastery of the Rachmaninoff 3rd, and confirms his stellar reputation with it.
The Rachmaninoff 3rd concerto is a complex piece, and, despite the fact that it is required repertoire for any pianist worth his or her salt, and therefore frequently performed, is nevertheless very difficult to pull off successfully. In my opinion, the vast majority of recordings of this work do not manage to overcome its complexity of form, and end up sounding way too episodic. As a result, the overall sense of the composition as a whole, is lost, and the performer as well as the listener merely rides wave after wave of effusive musical emotion. To extend the metaphor, the beauty and majesty of the ocean is forgotten in all the focus on the individual waves. Very, very few performers have been able to convey the coherance of this piece; to present it as a harmonious whole.
This is where Kapell succeeds. Under his fingers this concerto just, well, makes sense. Add to this his stunningly articulate fingerwork and singing tone in lyrical passages, and his Rachmaninoff 3rd remains unforgettable. With it, Kapell joins a very small, elite group of masters of this work on record: Horowitz, Rachmaninoff himself, and possibly Gieseking. None of the more recent recordings of this piece come close. Kapell's widow, in commenting on this recording, has suggested he was not at his best in this performance! Supposedly, there is a Rachmaninoff 3rd among the recently discovered recordings from Kapell's last Australian tour, from which he was returning when he was killed in a plane crash, but it may not be a complete version. Until, when, and if that recording is released, this remains the only Kapell version---but it is enough. The CD is worth the price for the Rachmaninoff alone; Kapell's Khachaturian concerto, while justifiably famous, is over-represented in his recorded legacy. If you love the Rachmaninoff 3rd piano concerto, you owe it to yourself to hear it played by William Kapell, and this CD is currently the only way to do that."
Relentless drive
C. Pinheiro Jr. | São Paulo, Brazil | 07/31/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"William Kapell (1922-1953) is regarded by many as the all-time greatest American pianist. This is a tall claim, especially considering that he lived only a scant 31 years (his life was tragically cut short by an aeroplane accident on the return from an Australian tour) and that his fellow countrymen include the likes of Earl Wild, Julius Katchen, Byron Janis, Van Cliburn and Murray Perahia, to name only a few. However, the proposition is far from absurd, since Kapell was an artist to whom the often overworked term "genius" can be adequately applied. More to the point, Kapell combined one of history's astounding pianistic mechanisms to a relentless drive, an inner conviction and a musical instinct which have had few equals before or since.

The Khachaturian concerto was a trademark Kapell piece. He played it frequently with great success, and his studio recording of it, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Sergei Koussevitsky, has acquired classic status. This 1945 live rendition is no less impressive, with Kapell's characteristic rhythmic snap and technical brilliance making the work sound better than it is, no mean feat in this musically difficult and not very engaging concerto (as witness Boris Berezovsky's new recording for Warner Classics, which never really ignites).

Kapell was a staunch admirer of Vladimir Horowitz, and his own pianism does resemble the Russian master's on several occasions, with his soaring, steely-but-deep tone and digital wizardry. Rachmaninov's Third Concerto was as much a Horowitz piece as the Khachaturian was Kapell's, and the American pianist follows up on his older colleague's footsteps by approaching the redoubtable Rach 3 - live in 1948 - in a virtuosic, propulsive and no-holds-barred manner. Also like Horowitz, Kapell opts for the short cadenza (excising the same two bars at the climax) and makes some cuts throughout, but this doesn't detract from a performance which is always thrilling and communicative.

The orchestras, NBC Symphony conducted by Frank Black (Khachaturian) and Toronto Symphony led by Ernest MacMillan (Rachmaninov), provide good accompaniment to Kapell, and if the sound quality is generally poor in these live broadcasts (much improved, though, by Ward Marston's expert sonic job), the musical experience is singularly rewarding. Highly recommended, particularly for enthusiasts of exciting piano-playing."