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MMD > Archives > October 1998 > 1998.10.31 > 08Prev  Next

Rachmaninoff Ampico Performances on Telarc CD
By Don Cox

In Mechanical Music Digest 981030, visitor Edward Russell wrote:

> A musician's opinion of the Stahnke-'Rachmaninoff' CD
> ...
> Fortunately for those interested in accuracy and fact, there are
> innumerable instances of extant written biographies and histories of
> artists and phonographs leaving NO DOUBT that disc-recorded selections
> were literally butchered and truncated and often played at absurd
> speeds to fit them on a 10" or 12" record. _That is fact._
> At a major piano company in the USA, the research and development
> department has the Rachmaninoff "G-Minor Prelude" on the wall as an
> example. After much testing, they scientifically proved that the
> repeated notes in the Ampico recording were at the limit of _any
> piano action_, _not_ the player action. The player action could
> actually play _faster_ than the piano action. _Any_ piano action.

Clearly the Rachmaninoff music is not abridged.  An obvious thing would
be to look at the scores of these pieces and see what the metronome
marks are.

The Horowitz concert performance of the G-minor Prelude has the same
overall timing as the Rachmaninoff disk performance, and sounds
substantially the same; there is obviously no pressure here to fit the
music into a shorter time.  If the disk was a 12-inch (does anyone have
the 78 disc?), then a piece lasting 3 min 34 sec could have been played
substantially slower if Rachmaninoff had wanted to, as a 12-inch 78-rpm
disk can play for over 4 minutes.

The most amazingly fast piece on the CD is the "Bumblebee", which is
an exercise in virtuosity.  Here, the Horowitz 78 recording, which was
issued _before_ Rachmaninoff's own, is within a second of his timing,
and at 1 min 10 sec there is no pressure on disc space.

As for the limits of piano action, presumably Wayne Stahnke's piano can
play what he has recorded.

I have found that when people use expressions like "That is a fact",
it is best to apply a grain of salt.  This is a difficult subject and
the evidence is not yet all in.  Mr. Russell seems to be saying that
neither the disc nor the Ampico recordings are worth listening to.


Don Cox

 [ A focused and polite rebuttal, Don; it's a pleasure to read your
 [ letters!  Please continue to write.  -- Robbie

(Message sent Sat 31 Oct 1998, 09:59:21 GMT, from time zone GMT+0100.)

Key Words in Subject:  Ampico, CD, Performances, Rachmaninoff, Telarc

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