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MOISEIWITSCH, Tranchell, The Cambridge Review, 12th November 1955

I was sitting rather near. Moiseiwitsch is such a wonderful salesman, but his sales-talk can be overwhelmingly forceful. Sometimes there were odd noises from the piano—the sounds of reverberating bed-springs—as if someone inside it was having a very restless night. I pitied them. After the interval I moved to a seat behind the piano-lid and was able in comparative shelter to watch the body of the house swayed in the high wind of Moiseiwitsch’s artistry. He is undoubtedly a very great artist.

We were regaled with Prokofieff’s third sonata, far less percussively rendered than I feared; Schumann’s Etudes Symphoniques a little blurred, but noble on the whole; and the whole gamut of Preludes by Chopin with one extra, posthumous, inserted about three-quarters of the way through. I have always wondered what these preludes are preludes to. Perhaps there are a couple of dozen fugues as yet undiscovered. Or is each a prelude to a concert, for a pianist to begin his recital with a short aperitif in the appropriate key? I am tempted to write a set of suitable “Encores” and see if the whole series get played as a single item. We live in an age of bundles. No-one can tolerate an individual item from a series or a single song from a cycle. No, we must have all the symphonies of Beethoven or Sibelius, all the nocturnes of Field, all the concertos of Rachmaninoff; and we are confirmed in this preference by long-playing records.

Moiseiwitsch managed to impart a freshness to these often-played Preludes by many excellent tricks of interpretation. However much one may disapprove of a thunderous crash where the composer indicated a whisper, there is no denying its effectiveness, and the whisper when reached is by contrast the more susurrous.

The second half of the concert consisted of Ravel’s Jeux d’eau, some smaller pieces of Rachmaninoff and Brahms, and finally Brahms’s Paganini Variations. These were not played in the order in which they are published, and in skipping to and fro from book to book several of them were omitted. I think I detected some improvisation after the third or fourth variation, and it may be that the player’s memory was not serving him as well as his fingers. But this was a good idea, lending variety to variations so time-honoured as to need it.

I was especially pleased in this delightful evening to hear some of those filthy roulades (which amused Chopin) properly treated. So many pianists are abstemious in their use of the sustaining pedal. Moiseiwitsch was not. One heard a line, the tail of a comet, and not pinpoints on a graph. After all, one can get very tired of having to count the grains in a rice-pudding, so this was a welcome relief.

Peter Tranchell