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Mon, 28 Feb 2005

Gershwin: The Piano Rolls, Vol. 2 / George Gershwin
Gershwin: The Piano Rolls, Vol. 2 Have you ever wondered what Mozart's playing was like? Or how a Strauss waltz sounded to the composer's contemporary audience? It's hard for us to remember that recording equipment is a relatively recent invention, that most performances, great and small, have been lost to history. I think of Lincoln as sounding like Hal Holbrook, or that Disney animatronic from the New York World's Fair. Silly, isn't it?

Which brings me to this disc of Gershwin performances. Any recording of Gershwin's time would of necessity be a pale shadow of the real thing. Even the best digital processing can't recreate the ambience of a real performance; it can only offer a simulation based on our own guesses and prejudices.

Here, on the other hand, is something from Gershwin's own hands. These tracks are recreated from piano rolls made in the early part of the last century. The piano sound is modern, and as perfect as our recording technology allows. The pacing is original, at least to the degree a player piano system could capture it. The timing is right; what's missing is the precise control, the soft and hard hard hitting of the keys. There's a particular sound to a player piano, a loss of variation and subtlety that must have been present in the original.

Still, for those of us who aren't a hundred years old, this is as close as we'll get to an original performance. It's as if Gershwin's ghost has returned for a little visit.

[ Category: Classical | 1 comment | Link ]

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Comments to: Hank Shiffman, Mountain View, California