Three CDs, three very different Rachmaninoffs !
Without much else to do on a Sunday, I pulled out my copy of Wayne
Stahnke's new CD (Telarc 80489) and a London Digital remaster of the
1978 recording (London 425 964-2) produced by Peter Wadland.
Wadland's recording featured a 9-foot Estonia grand with a rebuilt
Ampico mechanism within. I also pulled out the 1987 Newport all digital
recording "The Performing Piano II" (NC 60030) which features a vintage
The differences were striking. I tried very hard to ignore the obvious
differences between an analog recording made in the 70s and the modern
digital recordings, and the even more obvious differences between the
Estonia, Knabe and Boesendorfer pianos themselves.
The London recording definitely sounds mechanistic and "un-human".
I don't know whether to attribute this to the quality of the
retrofit job or the nature of pneumatic players in general. In spite
of this I find Estonias to be better "Rachmaninoff" pianos while
Boesendorfers are wonderful "Mozart" pianos,
The Knabe on the Newport recording suffered from being shorter than
the other instruments, and also was miked too closely in a rather
acoustically dead environment so the dynamic range and tone color
was adversely affected. But even so, it sounded more like a machine
than a human.
Bottom line is that Wayne's recording sounds more like a live
pianist than any other "Player piano recording on CD" I've ever heard!
As someone who was turned off to modern player technology by the Artis
Wodehouse Yamaha marketing scheme, I find Wayne's work to be in the
same league as Thomas Stockham's work with Caruso's Victor recordings.
Scholarly work with solid engineering behind it!
[ Has anyone compared these Ampico CDs with the Rachmaninoff's
[ live performances on phonograph recordings? -- Robbie