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MMD > Archives > November 2002 > 2002.11.27 > 06Prev  Next

Reproducing Piano Roll Foundation
By Albert Petrak

In reference to the remarks made by Mark Kinsler (MMD 021126) in
response to Craig Steins's questions.  His conclusion that the "player
piano" in all its varying configurations was not central to the
development of sound recording is, in my opinion, flawed.  Though
much was recorded on those early flat discs, from the inception of the
format, by many classical and popular artists, the medium was in its
infancy and could little reflect the actual sound of, with the vitally
important spectrum of nuance, the "golden age" pianists.  This was the
case up to 1925, when the acoustic gave way to the microphone and
electrical reproduction.  I speak here of the classical field only.

Keep in mind that the real service rendered is to provide a view of
the ever-changing "laws" of interpretation, espoused by the pupils,
followers, admirers, descendants of Franz Liszt.  Though many pianists
before Liszt, primarily Chopin, expanded the world of the piano to a
degree, it is to him that the pianist/composers, such as Paderewski,
Hofmann, Bauer, Friedman and many others owed their inspiration and
composition(s). They followed, copied, adjusted, expanded what he had
done, and from their roll recordings, we can follow that time line up
to the present.  Note that many of the young pianists now are clearly
influenced by the interpretations of those great artists, which are
preserved on the rolls.

The problem has always been, and continues to be, the correct
reproduction of the performances, affected in every way by the minute
adjustments necessary on the basic reproducing pianos: Ampico, Duo-Art,
Welte et al.  Thus, the thrust of the Reproducing Piano Roll Foundation
is to scan the existing recordings, preserving the minute detail,
before time and tide reduce them to dust.

The present emphasis is to assemble and scan the 78 performances of
he whom musicological opinion considers the primary follower/developer
of Liszt, the Italian/German (or the reverse, if you like) Ferruccio
Busoni.  His Duo-Art rolls (recorded in 1915 in America and 1922 in
England) are in relatively good supply in various collections.  Those
recorded for DUCA, based in Hamburg, are virtually extinct, though
we've had some success in locating them. (Of the 16 solo, we have
located 9; of the 8 recorded 4-hands with his pupil, the American
artist Michael von Zadora none to date).  Finally the Welte are all
"in hand" but of those made for Hupfeld (Phonola, Solodant, DEA,
ultimately Tri-Phonola) we've turned up only 8 of the 12 (16 in all)
converted after World War I from the hand-played originals.

I realize that this detail will be of little use to many collectors.
My purpose is to attempt preservation of the nearly 3,000 classical
rolls set down by those pianists considered to be of historic
importance (see Web detail on <http:/./>).

There has been much controversy among collectors over the verity of
Wayne Stahnke's transfers of the 35 rolls set down for Ampico by Sergei
Rachmaninoff (available on Telarc 80489 and 80491).  I do not propose
to contest these differing opinions and convictions, merely to state
that once copied and archived, future generations will have the "raw
material" to develop and enhance, if desired.

At the outset of this enterprise, I urged those who prefer the popular
arena to attempt a like program, but doubt if there has been any
organized effort to date, at least to my knowledge.  I will be pleased
to be informed otherwise.

Albert M. Petrak, Founder
The Reproducing Piano Roll Foundation

(Message sent Wed 27 Nov 2002, 14:15:26 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Foundation, Piano, Reproducing, Roll

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