In the past, radio was an all-consuming medium that relinquished its treasures by the magic of transmitter to radio airwaves. During those golden years, many music programs provided vast audiences with live or pre-recorded performances, in addition to the many other forms of entertainment and information that radio dispensed broadly and freely. Sadly, those days have been swallowed by the internet age. Worse, many of those programs and performances failed to survive outside the current occupied space those sound waves are presently traveling.
Sony/BMG Masterworks has begun a series called reDISCOVERED, where previously unreleased or seemingly lost performances by our planet’s revered artists, once resurfaced, are re-mastered and celebrated in opulent fashion and given back to the people for whom these performances were intended.
On the most recent reDISCOVERED Series release, a recently reacquired set of taped radio performances by important pianist, William Kapell, with some tracks being added to Kapell’s discography as previous works had not existed outside these performances; Sony Classical assembles a well-documented, re-mastered Monaural 2CD set. William Kapell was an American pianist, whose dogged determination to achieve perfection was noted. But as fate would have it, Kapell died in a plane crash at the young age of 31, depriving the world of what might have been an enduring legacy spanning many works.
Before his death in 1953, he performed a series of performances (37 concerts) in Australia, four of which fragments are presented on this 2-disc set. Most of these performances are live but some have been augmented with studio cuts and recorded recital to fill them out. His performance of Bach’s Suite in A Minor consists of his July 21st live performance of “Courante,” “Sarabandes I and II,” and “Gigue” is prefaced with the “Allemande,” a 1947 RCA studio recording. Other such fill-ins occur here for Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky), and Piano Concerto No. 3 (Rachmaninoff).
A beautiful and rewarding gem here is the inclusion of Suite bergamasque by Debussy, which is new to the Kapell discography (along with Prokofiev; parts of Chopin; and a disc-noisy version of “God Save the Queen”). Kapell does a commanding set of “Prelude,” “Menuet,” “Clair de lune,” and “Passepied” with his July 28 (1953) performance.
In the liner notes by producer Jon M Samuels, he tells of the reason why these performances are so important. The level of maturity and expression by Kapell had elevated to an astonishing level, hinting at a forthcoming career that would have been extraordinary, perhaps unmatched. These recorded performances reveal those intensities, which were spurred by criticism that had angered him. Much of these recordings come from a private collection of a fan who had obsessively recorded musical broadcasts over the radio onto acetate discs.
These piano recordings by William Kapell are wonderful and will serve as an excellent library addition for collectors of Kapell’s works. The tri-fold digipak includes a 28-page booklet with photos, credits, and plenty of notes in English and replicated in German and French.