Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 7

Volume Two of RCA’s William Kapell edition showcases several facets of this brilliant, complex, and tragically short-lived pianist. One is the unstinting perfectionist who took almost two years to realize his ideal vision on disc of Chopin’s B minor Sonata. It’s a recording for which the pianist was justifiably proud. His lucid, clear playing sings with forthright dynamism and integrity in every bar. One hears vestiges of pre-planning via the pianist’s sectionalized use of color, pedal effects, and varied articulation, in contrast to Dinu Lipatti’s more integrated, fluent architecture. Ditto the Chopin E-flat Waltz and the Chopin B-flat minor Sonata. The latter stems from a live performance in Australia only a week before the pianist’s death in a plane crash. Its crude aircheck sonics are tinny and constricted, yet Jon Samuels effects striking improvement in this new transfer, making the piano sound like a piano instead of a xylophone. A private live recording from a 1945 Carnegie Hall recital features a searching yet simple Chopin B-flat minor Nocturne. Mendelssohn’s “The Shephed’s Complaint” emerges as a little tone poem in Kapell’s sensitive hands, and the pianist weaves the long lines binding Schumann’s F-sharp Romance with vocal eloquence. Kapell recorded the Adagio from Mozart’s B-flat Sonata K. 570 as a work-in-progress during his last studio session in March 1953, hoping to return to it later. Kapell’s sensitive phrasing seems earnest and studied at times, as if one false move would burst the delicate, expressive bubble. Piano fans and scholars alike will find much to absorb from this release.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Chopin B Minor Sonata, Argerich (Philips)

VARIOUS - Various

  • William Kapell (piano)
  • RCA - 68991-2
  • CD

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