I sat down and listened to the Rachmaninoff audio recordings against
the Stahnke CD (with Denis Hall, a long-term expert in both reproducing
piano and audio recordings). My original concern after just hearing
the CD was that the Boesendorfer, with its harder tone than older
instruments, was rather over-accenting the music.
It was an interesting exercise -- our conclusion was that the
Boesendorfer was in all probability representing what we would have
heard [had we been present?] in the studio at the time. Rachmaninoff
had an extraordinary technique, and really did produce pretty loud
accents, as the 78s quite clearly demonstrate.
From that point of view, the performances on the new CD certainly
feel the same as the original 78s: the same personality comes through,
although the sound is different. For all that, I would be interested
to hear a Boesendorfer recording with the dynamic curve turned down just
a little at the upper levels. It's really an artistic question of how
Rachmaninoff would have reacted to a powerful modern Boesendorfer.
Perhaps he would have accented things even harder, who knows?
The most questionable part of the CD is the speeds, which have often
been changed quite a bit from the roll markings. Given the compromises
in performance when making a 78 record, it's questionable whether the
78 should form the definitive speed for the piece: the roll may well be
a better representation, although roll companies could be pretty
cavalier with the markings! Again, it's an artistic judgement for the
CD producer to make.
[ I think Wayne is traveling abroad right now; I hope he will
[ write about this when he returns. -- Robbie