This updated newsletter has been a long time coming, because I was a long time waiting to be able to tell you, without fear of contradiction, about the latest CD release. It’s kind of a long story, but even before I get to the abridged version, a hot flash:
- The noted Canadian pianist Alain Lefèvre will be devoting two full programs in his Radio Canada series to Nadia Reisenberg’s solo recordings plus the in-concert CDs with violinist Erick Friedman and the Juilliard Quartet. The first of these will air between 10 a.m. and noon (Eastern time) Sunday, September 21, with the second broadcast to follow in December. You can hear the live stream at Ici Musique or listen anytime for the next three or four weeks at the same website. Here, I’m told, is another more direct link:
- OK, back to the long story (abridged). Ten years ago, to mark the Nadia Reisenberg centennial, Ivory Classics, the label founded by legendary pianist Earl Wild and his partner Michael Davis, issued a two-CD set of Russian pieces. Derived from several Westminster LPs, the repertoire included 18 rarely-encountered Tchaikovsky pieces, 7 by Rachmaninoff, and the 24 Preludes of Dmitri Kabalevsky. Indeed, that and another double album of Haydn Sonatas and Variations (also on the Ivory Classics label) marked the first time that any of her Wesminster recordings had emerged on CD. Since then, of course, many others have followed, on the Bridge and Roméo labels.After Earl’s death in 2010, though, Michael found himself involved with other projects, and by the beginning of this year, both albums were difficult to find, if not fully out of print. With Michael’s generous permission, the Nadia Reisenberg / Clara Rockmore Foundation has decided to re-master and re-issue the Russian set on Romeo Records in this, the 110th anniversary of the pianist’s birth. If funds become available, the Haydn will follow later.
This, however, was not just a matter of copying the Ivory CDs. I don’t have to tell you that the performances were superb, but taking advantage of technological progress over the past decade, engineer Seth Winner was engaged to go back to the original master tapes and evolve from them the most natural sonics possible. We also discovered that by inverting the order of performances, we had room to add two Rachmaninoff miniatures that hadn’t fit on the earlier album: the Romance in F Minor, Op. 10 #6, and Polichinelle, Op. 3 #4.
A number of intriguing visuals have been added to the liner notes (including letters to Nadia from Paderewski and Glazunov, and photos taken in both Vilnius and St. Petersburg by (Nadia’s grandson) Steve J. Sherman. If all goes well, the 2-CD set will be available early next month.
- The January-February issue of Fanfare Magazine devoted 18 pages to an interview (with yours truly) about preserving Nadia and Clara’s legacy, plus reviews of their CD albums by six different critics. To our delight (though hardly surprise), the accounts approached the ecstatic. Herewith a few samples…From Dave Saemann:
“Nadia Reisenberg was one of the great Chopin pianists of the 20th century. Her Barcarolle has a wonderful flexibility in mood and tempo, with an ebb and flow as the emotion builds. In the Berceuse, there is a tremendous feeling of fantasy, with kaleidoscopic colors.”
“Reisenberg’s live 1947 Carnegie Hall Third Sonata is a major statement of the work. … Her Scherzo is gossamer; the Largo has a hushed intensity and achieves profundity with an apparent absence of effort; Reisenberg’s Finale is filled with pianistic fireworks. The performance is primal in its conception.”
From David DeBoor Canfield:
“This performance (of the Mendelssohn D Minor Trio with the Juilliard Quartet’s Earl Carlyss and Joel Krosnick) belies its being a live performance. I’ve never hear a commercial recording that has surpassed the result that I hear here, and few that match it in passion and flawless execution. … “Sonics throughout the live pieces are very aurally and musically satisfying.”
“The disc is filled out with three exquisite miiatures from Rachmaninoff’s Opus 10, to which Reisenberg brings a most sensitive touch and inquisitive probing.”
From Radu A. Lelutiu
“Reisenberg impresses (in three Rachmaninoff pieces) with her bel canto tone, expert pedaling, and control of phrasing. The term ‘golden tone’ is oftentimes thrown around by music critics, but if you are curious to hear what it really means, give Reisenberg a listen. Her virtuosity, power of projection, and concentration result in a performance that ought to be heard by everyone.”
“No matter where you start listening, I is certain that you will be enchanted by what you hear.”
From Paul Orgel
“In each of the 1977 program’s sonatas (Brahms, Strauss and Beethoven, with violinist Erick Friedman), Reisenberg is thorough ‘inside’ the music, and her sensitive playing helps to fashion performances of considerable nuance and interpretive variety … she meets the technical challenges of three difficult piano parts with aplomb.”
“Reisenberg is particularly eloquent in the (Strauss Sonata) second movement’s perfumed atmosphere, tossing off its glittering arabesques with ease … In the Kreutzer Sonata, Reisenberg’s astute realizations of Beethoven’s markings in the second movement’s opening set the tone for a subtle, poised rendition … the final Presto gains cumulative excitement from the notably clean and precise playing from both performers.”
“As an affectionate tribute to Reisenberg’s unpretentious artistry, and a showcase for the ravishing playing of Erick Friedman, this release serves as a valuable memento of a collaboration that properly treats violin sonatas as chamber music.”
From Peter J. Rabinowitz
“This (NR’s 1947 Carnegie Hall appearance) is a sensational recital. It’s hard to believe that the pianist who so lovingly caresses the languorously curving phrases of Scriabin’s P[is 42/2 is the same one whose sharp accentuation and brilliant articulation so strikingly bring out the rhythmic crosscurrents of he first of Barber’s Excursions.”
“When this set was first released a few years ago, Boy Pomeroy, in a detailed review, waxed enthusiastic over her ‘prodigious versatility in the widest-ranging repertoire’ and I think that phrase sums it up well.”
And from Lynn René Bayley
“Every so often I’m asked to review an artist whose work is so good that I consider it an honor. Nadia Reisenberg is one such; my exposure to her, via the 20CD on Roméo 7293/94 was so overwhelming, both intellectually and emotionally, that I found myself mesmerized by her playing.”
“These are certainly the mot achingly beautiful and deeply moving performances (of the Chopin Nocturnes) I’ve ever heard… I was in tears just listening to them. They’re that good.”
“And now we turn to the disc by Nadia’ sister, Clara Rockmore, her junior by seven years. Her playing is remarkable for its exquisite lyricism and elegance, making the theremin sound like a soprano singing without words. Rockmore’s exceptional phrasing and musical sensitivity take ones breath away.”
“Gaspar Cassado’s fine Requiebros is astonishing, a fairy rapid piece played with superb virtuosity by Rockmore … Ravel’s Kaddish is given a surprisingly deep, emotional reading … ad Richard Heuberg’s Midnight Bells — arranged by Fritz Kriesler — gives you double the schmaltz for the money.”
- Speaking of Clara, the Bob Moog Foundation recently released a video tribute to Leon Theremin, with readings by executive director Michelle Moog-Koussa, and a portion of Clara Rockmore’s theremin performance of Gershwin’s “Summertime”. Bob Moog, of course, was influential in restoring Clara’s instrument, she dedicated her teaching manual to him, and we are proud to have them reunited in this fashion.For much more information about the theremin and its inventor (Leon Theremin), and details of so many of Bob Moog’s scientific innovations, check out the website at
- Savannah’s Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum has long been renowned for its innovative music programs, and Clara Rockmore’s image and recordings will be an integral part of the “Theremin Summit” to be held there on September 19th.
- As always, we welcome comments and suggestions about the materials in the website, and donations to the Nadia Reisenberg /Clara Rockmore Foundation are always welcome, and may be addressed to the Foundation at 5 Tavano Road, Ossining NY 10562
Posted by Bob Sherman, 9/6/2014