Over the years I have been involved in numerous recording sessions
involving piano rolls. I can attest for example, that our national
broadcaster in Australia (ABC) made hundreds of recordings of piano
rolls during the mid 1980s, mainly Duo-Art, being played on original
instruments, and also on a Vorsetzer built by myself and Denis Condon.
The recordings varied from excellent to dreadful, depending on the
recording engineer and studio. Unfortunately, all of these recordings
are now lost in the archives.
But making piano roll recordings on original instruments does not
always do justice to the piano roll. Unless the instrument is in
tip-top condition, the results can be less than spectacular. For that
reason, the 12 CDs of Ampico rolls I released via Naxos earlier in the
year are recorded on a mechanical MIDI instrument, via MIDI realisations
of the roll. Readers of this digest can make up their own minds as to
whether this is a preferable way of recording piano rolls, but I believe
it is. It not only removes some of the problems of pneumatic instruments,
it provides a sound consistent with today's recordings, as a modern piano
is being used. This allows easier comparison to modern recordings, as
apart from pianistic style, the recordings have a similar sound.
Using a Vorsetzer pushed up to a modern piano is another way of achieving
this, but it relies on the Vorsetzers capabilities. Also, in my view,
some of the MIDI mechanical pianos of today are far superior to
anything in the pneumatic range. They operate silently, have a wider
dynamic range and can usually play more softly and consistently. I'll
stop there, as I'm sure not everyone will agree with me...