Gershwin CD: Another View
By Paul Johnson
|Gershwin CD - Yet Another Opinion|
This topic has been too interesting not to dive into.
Unlike the majority of the readership here (at least as far as I can detect) I come at this from the music side versus the instrument side.
I think there's an important issue with the Gershwin Cds and, more significantly, some meaningful outcomes that go beyond just the sound of the recordings.
First, there's the sound of the Cds themselves - a topic many are passionate about. A lot of time and trouble went into making these the best sounding Cds possible. The extra effort shows.
Unfortunately, like some of the other Digest members, I don't find a solenoid driven piano quite as satisfying to listen to as one that is pneumatically driven. Is it a big difference? No. But, I would rather listen to my Klavier Lps of the same material just because I prefer the sound of the original instruments. This may have a lot to do with the fact that I've literally grown up around these pneumatically driven machines and this is the sound that I'm accustomed to hearing. It would be interesting to hear what "Joe Public" prefers - pneumatically driven or solenoid (given a choice).
Obviously "Joe Public" is not deterred by the sound quality of Artis' recordings because they're buying them in droves.
It's easy though to focus on one small aspect of the project and miss the bigger picture - that is, the effect these recordings are causing on the music community at large. First, Artis' determined work through the Gershwin project and now through her series on Pearl, is awakening the public to this whole world of talented piano artists/arrangers of the twenties and thirties. She's exposing scads of people to the talents of Arden and Ohman, Pauline Alpert and the like. And the public is saying "yeah, this really is great stuff - why haven't we heard this before!".
Of no less importance, she's pioneered a whole new method of playing and recording these vintage performances. With the help of others, she successfully converted the Duo-Art coding to a form the Disk Klavier could interpret. In doing so, she's taken the music out of the limited domain of the player piano enthusiast and thrust it into a medium that can be enjoyed by a much larger number of people. The music has always been great but the public had no easy way of accessing it. There also wasn't someone championing it until now - so the combination of the two has helped to make the music a hit.
I remember hearing Artis on a SF Bay Area radio show in 1984, talking about the importance of going back and listening to the original recordings of these people like Gershwin. Back then you could here the real passion she has for the music. Those of us who love this stuff are excited to see others get excited about (and it also confirms that we weren't just crazy for liking these things).
Note: The "Gershwin Plays Gershwin" CD by Laserlight may be taken from the earlier Klavier release of the same name. The Klavier LP recorded Gershwin's original roll performances from a Duo-Art. I believe Klavier is making Cds now so it's interesting that they didn't release it themselves.
The Piano Roll Shop
(Message sent Sat 19 Oct 1996, 15:36:59 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)