Alexander Brailowsky

Author: 
Bryce Morrison

Alexander Brailowsky

  • Sonatas for Keyboard Nos. 1-555
  • Sonata for Piano No. 1, Rondo (presto), 'Perpetuum mobile'
  • (3) Marches Militaires, D
  • (3) Fantaisies (or caprices), Scherzo in E minor
  • Fantaisie-impromptu
  • (27) Etudes, C sharp minor, Op. 10/4
  • (27) Etudes, F, Op. 25/3
  • (4) Ballades, No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23
  • Barcarolle
  • (8) Fantasiestücke, No. 7, Traumes Wirren
  • (19) Hungarian Rhapsodies, No. 12 in C sharp minor
  • Pour le piano, Toccata
  • (24) Preludes, C sharp minor
  • (12) Etudes, No. 12 in D sharp minor
  • Ouvertüre zu R. Wagners `Tannhäuser'

I recently reviewed an APR Brailowsky disc of his 1938 London HMV recordings (8/94—prompting a letter in January, page 9), which thrillingly contradicted prevailing legends concerning his lack of greatness, his overall proficiency but lack of either musical or technical finesse. Alas, Pearl's offering of recordings dating from 1928-34 returns us to square one. For here, despite some strenuous pleading by their insert-note writer, there is far too little to delight or, indeed, engage the listener at even the most rudimentary level.
However, Brailowsky's performance of Liszt's Tannhauser transcription provides a notable exception, and even when the playing degenerates into a form of musical racketeering there is an imposing breadth and vitality. Admirers will want the disc for this performance alone. Elsewhere Brailowsky is less than revelatory and you only have to listen to, say, Moiseiwitsch (a true representative of a golden rather than tarnished age of pianism) in his pre-war version of Chopin's Fantasie-impromptu and, most of all, the F major Etude, Op. 25 No. 3 (APR, 2/88) to hear the difference between a dazzling, witty and elegant legerdemain and a strenuous, coldly detached alternative. Convulsive rubato and a tendency for large-scale theatrical gestures to crystallize into mannerisms mar the proportions of both Chopin's Barcarolle and Ballade No. 1 and so, too, does a crude and chaffing way with Liszt's prescribed dolce con grazia (3'40'') in his Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12.
Debussy's ''Toccata'' (Pour le piano) sounds four-square rather than fleet, and Schumann's ''Traumes Wirren'' (Fantasiestucke) is quite without the necessary Fingerfertigkeit of, again, Moiseiwitsch (in the 1950s—Testament, 1/94). The Scriabin items are given more convincingly full-blooded performances, but my advice, overall, is to listen to the APR disc of the London HMV recordings. There you will find buoyancy, brio and sparkle in abundance, a brilliant answer to all Doubting Thomases.'

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