SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch Complete - The Full Series - PABX017

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SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch Complete - The Full Series - PABX017

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Music by Bach, Beethoven, Bloch, Busoni, Chopin, Brahms, Debussy, Kabalevsky, Liszt, Mozart, Rachmaninov, Saeverud, Schumann et al

JASCHA SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch - Volume 1
JASCHA SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch - Volume 2
JASCHA SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch - Volume 3
JASCHA SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch - Volume 4
JASCHA SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch - Volume 5
JASCHA SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch - Volume 6
JASCHA SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch - Volume 7
JASCHA SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch - Volume 8
JASCHA SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch - Volume 9
JASCHA SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch - Volume 10
JASCHA SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch - Volume 11

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This set contains the following albums:

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SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch, Volume 1 (1955-67) - PAKM065

Introducing Jascha Spivakovsky (1896-1970), "One of the greatest pianists of our time"

First solo piano release from a brilliant pianist who never recorded commercially

“Back in Russia when I was four years old, my mother dragged me through
twenty feet deep to hear an outstanding prodigy. YOU were that prodigy.”

Vladimir Horowitz, 1948

“The sensation of London. At the last evening concert in the Albert Hall it is estimated that
3,000 people were unable to gain admission, and there were scenes of wild enthusiasm.”

The Mercury

“Supreme mastery of the instrument and brilliant technique [and] that rarer quality to be described only as soul …
much as I want to hear Cortot, I want to 
hear Spivakovsky again still more”
Dover Express

Producing this first volume of recordings by the pianist Jascha Spivakovsky has been something of a global endeavour. Co-ordinated by Spivakovsky's grandson, Eden Spivakovsky initially from Singapore, now in Australia, with transfers overseen by Spivakovsky's son, Michael at a renowned mastering studio in Melbourne, Australia, the choices for this volume were then sent to me in France for audio restoration and remastering.

After much deliberation, this first volume concentrates on Jascha Spivakovsky's solo work - later volumes will include concerto and chamber music, the latter alongside Jascha's renowned violinist brother, Tossy Spivakovsky, and will delve further into the past. Most of the present recordings were made by Jascha during rehearsals for concerts and broadcasts in Australia in the 1960s, and were recorded by Michael Spivakovsky onto a mono Tandberg reel-to-reel tape recorder using a standard-issue microphone. They were not therefore intended for release, and it has been my task to elevate the quality of the recordings to a standard which not only is acceptable to modern listeners but also does full justice to Jascha Spivakovsky himself.

Using the most up-to-date audio restoration and remastering software, I've been able to correct pitch anomalies, compensate for the tonal inaccuracies of the microphone, eliminate electrical hum, greatly diminish tape hiss, and digitally "rehouse" Jascha in one of the more intimate concert halls at Santa Cecilia, Rome, renowned for fine musical acoustics which complement the piano's tone, without introducing a wash of unnatural reverberation.

This page can only serve as an introduction to the incredible musical story of Jascha Spivakovsky - for a fuller picture I strongly recommend you visit www.jascha.com and immerse yourself in an amazing musical voyage of discovery. As Damian Thompson of The Spectator wrote to me a few days ago, in response to first hearing Jascha Spivakovsky: "Greatest pianist I've never heard of? More like one of the greatest pianists I've heard."

Andrew Rose

SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch, Volume 2 (1955-67) - PAKM067

Jascha Spivakovsky: Second splendid volume from the brilliant pianist

More unreleased recordings from the Spivakovsky family archive, XR remastered by Andrew Rose

Following on from the well-received first volume, this second release by Jascha Spivakovsky continues to concentrate on his solo work. The present recordings were made by Jascha during rehearsals for concerts and broadcasts in Australia in the 1950s and 1960s, and were recorded by Michael Spivakovsky onto a mono Tandberg reel-to-reel tape recorder using a standard-issue microphone. They were not therefore intended for release, and it has been my task to elevate the quality of the recordings to a standard which not only is acceptable to modern listeners but also does full justice to Jascha Spivakovsky himself.

Using the most up-to-date audio restoration and remastering software, I've been able to correct pitch anomalies, compensate for the tonal inaccuracies of the microphone, eliminate electrical hum, greatly diminish tape hiss, and digitally "rehouse" Jascha in one of the more intimate concert halls at Santa Cecilia, Rome, renowned for fine musical acoustics which complement the piano's tone, without introducing a wash of unnatural reverberation.

This page can only serve as an introduction to the incredible musical story of Jascha Spivakovsky - for a fuller picture I strongly recommend you visit www.jascha.com and immerse yourself in an amazing musical voyage of discovery.

Andrew Rose

SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch, Volume 3 (1955-67) - PAKM070

This release of the Russian-born pianist Jascha Spivakovsky features recordings of four pivotal Beethoven Sonatas from key periods of the composer's output. Spivakovsky had a great affinity for Beethoven and his daring yet poetic readings demonstrate a fusion of passion with classical structure that mirrors the pianist's modern approach to Romanticism at the keyboard, whereby the heart of the score is revealed through transparent textures, a polished singing sound, and attentive voicing.

"Last night's concert at the Town Hall would be belittled If it were described merely as a piano recital. It was an experience of mind and spirit and a sincere artist's submergence of self and technical awareness into the world of Beethoven"
Sir Neville Cardus, Sydney Morning Herald, 1947

"From whatever angle one viewed the performance it was stamped with unmistakeable signs of rarity and greatness ... I have never seen an artist sit at the keyboard with less apparent concern for its existence other than as a medium for the realisation of a long-matured imaginative conception. So inflexible is Spivakovsky's mental control that not a bravura passage in all the four sonatas escaped its relationship to the interpretive whole"
John Sinclair, The Herald, 1947

SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch, Volume 4 (1948-66) - PAKM073

This fourth in our ongoing series of recordings by Jascha Spivakovsky offers a superb selection of recordings from a variety of sources, accompanied by excellent sleevenotes written for us by Mark Ainley, which details each performance.

From a technical point of view, once again there were a number of challenges to overcome, and recording quality was particularly varied. The opening piece, Bach's Fantasia in C minor, originated from an acetate disc Spivakovsky made in 1948. These were particularly delicate, designed for no more than a handful of replays before they begin to deteriorate, and are easily damaged. The disc in question was reasonably well preserved for its age, but there was some surface damage too severe to remove - I could only try to minimise its impact on the performance.

Thereafter we have a series of taped recordings made in different environments and with different microphones and equipment using different pianos on tapes of varying quality. In remastering these I have aimed for the best possible quality from each individual recording first and foremost, rather than trying to make each sound the same. This does mean there's a certain lack of continuity of sound, though of course not of performer. Happily the performances themselves are of such quality than any tonal jumps between pianos will quickly be forgotten as each new performance takes hold.

Finally, if you're wondering why this series is "From Bach to Bloch", it's simple: by the time we've finished, Bach will be the earliest composer in the series, dates-wise, Bloch the latest, with a whole lot of other fine music in between!

Andrew Rose

SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch, Volume 8 (1955-67) - PAKM080

This 8th volume devoted to the artistry of Jascha Spivakovsky features an array of solo works ranging from Baroque through late Romantic periods. All of these performances showcase the pianist’s musical versatility and remarkable interpretative abilities, his trademark crystalline transparency of texture and beauty of tone ever-present as he respects key stylistic parameters of each era while bringing individual touches to his interpretations.

Spivakovsky’s affinity with the music of Beethoven has been evident from the six sonata readings issued in previous volumes and is now even more apparent in the stellar 1955 and 1957 broadcast performances of two more in this volume. In these less frequently played early sonatas - Op.14 No.1 and Op.27 No.1 - the pianist’s magnificent clarity, rhythmic precision, and mindfully crafted phrasing serve to highlight both structure and character. Particularly notable is his capacity to provide emphasis without distorting the melodic line or hardening tonal quality: boldly shaped runs and accented octaves are never harsh yet provide the strong contrasts idiomatic to Beethoven’s writing, all the while sustaining the lyrical elements of the music.

A 1960 ABC broadcast of Schumann’s Arabeske finds Spivakovsky playing with fluid phrasing and sumptuous tone, his skilled pedalling enhancing colour without sullying the overall texture. The three Chopin works presented here from a 1967 ABC TV broadcast were featured elsewhere in this series in different interpretations, yet these later traversals help us to better appreciate variations and similarities in the pianist’s approach. Aged 70 at the time of the transmission (of which only the audio survives) and having already curtailed his international touring schedule due to a health crisis, Spivakovsky shows no diminution in his power or technical capacity, yet he eschews bombastic showmanship to temper strength with lyricism. The G Minor Ballade features the same breadth and expansiveness as the 1966 home practice session, with some differences in timing and phrasing. The Revolutionary Etude offers a touch more intensity than the home recording of a few years previously, yet with equal clarity and mindful shaping, while the Fantasie Impromptu is similar in intensity and drive to the issued 1955 reading yet with even greater depth of tone.

In a 1955 ABC broadcast of a once-popular Gluck encore - the Gavotte in A Major, beautifully arranged by Brahms - Spivakovsky plays with a sumptuous sonority, marvellous tonal and rhythmic control, and refined dynamic gradations. Time stands still as his burnished singing line in the middle section soars over the detached accompaniment. Two works by Brahms find the artist at his best, with wonderfully transparent layering and legato phrasing on his prized 1910 Blüthner recorded at his home in 1961. He plays in a manner similar to what can be heard in recordings made by pianists who knew the composer, with a vitality of rhythm and clarity of texture often lacking from the overly-serious readings of today. Jascha brings a unique combination of poise, enthusiasm, and wit to these performances, with supple phrasing and nuancing in the Intermezzo Op.119 No.3 and buoyancy and vivaciousness in the Capriccio Op.76 No.2.

With the final ‘encore’ of La Campanella - one of the few recordings we have of Spivakovsky playing Liszt - the 70-year-old pianist closes his 1967 television broadcast and this compilation with dazzling finger work, deftly-defined articulation, and glistening tone. Even in works as overtly virtuosic as this showpiece, he burnishes the melodic line and discreetly adjusts his timing to underline the emotional content of the work.

Once again Jascha Spivakovsky reveals his master musician status by striking an ideal balance between objectivity and individuality, being faithful to the score while adding refined personal touches that bring the music to life.

Mark Ainley

SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch, Volume 9 (1953-61) - PAKM081

This 9th volume of private recordings of the great Russian pianist Jascha Spivakovsky features the artist playing a wide range of repertoire, from Bach through to Spivakovsky’s contemporaries. As in previous releases, the listener can marvel at the glorious pianism of a musician who left behind no commercial solo discs and who is today enjoying worldwide appreciation by a new generation of piano fans.

This compilation opens with a live recording of Gavottes I & II from Bach’s English Suite No.3, an encore at a 1961 concert that took place shortly after Spivakovsky’s release from hospital (the same week as the Beethoven Concerto No.4 from Volume 7 and the same concert as the Bach-Busoni D Minor Concerto from a future release). Jascha plays with his trademark rhythmic vitality and clarity of voicing in a reading that also showcases his beautiful tone and fluid phrasing.

The centrepiece of this disc is a stirring account of Brahms’ titanic Sonata No.3 in F Minor, a key work in Spivakovsky’s repertoire. The second movement was one of his favourite works in the entire piano literature, which might easily be surmised when listening to his poetic reading: time stands still with his magical pacing and sumptuous phrasing. The entire performance is grandly conceived, his noble approach never tipping into the bombast often heard in the work, thanks to his lyrical phrasing and transparent textures.

Unfortunately, the final moments of the last movement were missing from the tape that the ABC provided the pianist of the 1953 broadcast. After much deliberation as to whether issue an incomplete recording or not release it at all, it was decided that Jascha’s son Michael would coach a skilled student on how his father played these passages so as to complete the performance - a small price to pay to be able to enjoy such a glorious account of this masterpiece by this great artist.

A series of shorter works enable us to appreciate Spivakovsky’s tremendous versatility and masterful music-making. His account of Mendelssohn’s Venetian Gondola Song is characterized by its fluid melodic line and emotive timing, while Glazunov’s rarely-played Gavotte in D Major is notable for its rhythmic buoyancy, deft articulation, and poised voicing. Debussy’s Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum features beautiful textures and attentive shaping, while Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G Major has a soaring singing line and rich rubato. A fascinating rarity are two works by Norwegian composer Harald Saeverud (the first was dedicated to Jascha) that capture to perfection the pianist’s gorgeous tonal palette and masterful pedal technique.

Kabelevsky’s Sonata No.3 is presented here in a mid-1950s BBC broadcast (a later home recording was issued in Vol.1 of this series): this magnificent interpretation is both refined and impassioned, Spivakovsky’s tonal colours and subtle timing highlighting the dramatic nature of the work. To close, we have Liadov’s Musical Snuff Box (with the spoken announcement to this encore concert performance by Jascha himself), played with glistening tonal and pedal effects - a delightful conclusion to yet another revealing collection of marvellous performances by the great Jascha Spivakovsky.

Mark Ainley

SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch, Volume 5 (1949/1953) - PASC530

Technical Note

This fifth volume of recordings by Jascha Spivakovsky brings us two fine concerto performances with music by Mozart and Tchaikovsky, eloquently described in our sleevenotes by Mark Ainley.

From a technical perspective these were difficult recordings to restore. Taken from AM broadcasts in 1949 and 1953, they were preserved on exceptionally delicate 78rpm acetate discs. Nearly 70 years later these discs show all the expected signs of wear and tear, as well as the limited frequency and dynamic range associated with such radio broadcasts of the time.

I have brought all the digital tools at my disposal to bear here - including new advances still in development - to try and ameliorate the flaws inherent in the recordings. The results are remarkable given the source material, but there are moments where the listener will have to forgive me for being unable to entirely resolve certain issues.

Nevertheless this remains a hugely important and exceptionally enjoyable release, and a unique opportunity to hear Spivakovsky in an orchestral rather than solo setting.

Andrew Rose

SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch, Volume 7 (1953/1961) - PASC539

This new volume of unreleased Jascha Spivakovsky recordings features the Russian-born émigré to Australia in magnificent broadcast performances of two great works by Beethoven. These readings of the great composer’s final two piano concertos find Spivakovsky in his twilight years playing with a fusion of unwavering technical prowess and musical depth, his half-century of concert experience infusing his readings with conviction and command.

This recording of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.4 in G Major, Op.58 comes from an ABC Radio studio broadcast in Melbourne made on January 7, 1961 with the Victorian State Orchestra conducted by Clive Douglas. The circumstances surrounding this reading are rather remarkable and moving: this is the first performance Spivakovsky gave after the surgery that nearly killed him a mere six weeks earlier, the pianist leaving his sickbed for the first time when his son drove him to the studio for the rehearsal and performance. Listening to the recording, one would never know that he had been ailing or had not practiced since his surgery, nor that there had been only one run-through just prior to the actual broadcast. Apparently the conductor had missed several entries in the rehearsal, leading Spivakovsky to beat pulses more strongly at times to improve the likelihood of the orchestra entering on time. The excellent sound of this broadcast captures to perfection the crystalline piano tone praised by legendary critic Neville Cardus, and Spivakovsky plays throughout with exquisite clarity and subtle pedalling (the second movement is sublime) in an interpretation that combines refined nuancing with earthy robustness, reflecting Beethoven’s own bridging of divinely inspired music with the physical world.  

Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto hails from a January 18, 1953 broadcast on the BBC General Overseas Service as part of the ‘Concerto’ series with the BBC Scottish Orchestra conducted by Ian Whyte. The performance, given in front of an invited audience of 100 people, was captured via shortwave and therefore suffers from limited sonic fidelity. In 1959 Spivakovsky would give another broadcast of the work for the BBC in vastly better sound, but the pianist himself was not permitted to obtain a copy due to regulations requiring that the source material be destroyed after three transmissions, so the present release uses the only known recording of the artist in this concerto. As in all of the pianist's Beethoven performances, his rhythmic pulse provides propulsion without sacrificing lyricism, harmonic and melodic elements are clearly delineated, and voicing is uncannily transparent, resulting in a grand and heroic interpretation of this popular work.

These riveting performances by Jascha Spivakovsky are a significant addition to his discography and give the listener a greater appreciation for his unique musicianship and pianism.

Mark Ainley

SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch, Volume 10 (1927-1956) - PASC579

This 10th volume of recordings of Jascha Spivakovsky, the Ukrainian-born pianist who died without having released any commercial solo discs, continues with two 1950s appearances with orchestra and a fascinating bonus of the earliest known recordings of the pianist.

Spivakovsky enjoyed a warm relationship with the French conductor Pierre Monteux, whose autographed photo still resides on the pianist’s Steinway in the family home, so it is unfortunate that only one recording with this duo has been found. This April 6, 1952 Standard Hour broadcast with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra features the final two movements of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.23 in A Major K.488, all that were programmed for this appearance (soloists frequently played only a movement or two on these programs). An earlier concert recording of the entire work was released in Volume 5 of this Bach to Bloch series, but the excellent sound quality of this particular reading - as well as the exquisite beauty of Spivakovsky’s interpretation - warrants its release. The pianist’s crystalline tone and supple phrasing are a marvel to behold, his playing as lyrically sumptuous in the second movement as it is vibrant in the third. While Monteux introduces some unexpected tempo shifts in orchestral tuttis in the final movement, these do not detract from the wonderful rapport between the soloist and orchestra, the textures and balance being particularly accomplished.

Beethoven was among Spivakovsky’s greatest loves and his readings of the concertos won him praise around the globe. The January 28, 1956 BBC broadcast of the Piano Concerto No.4 in G Major is a different but equally compelling performance to the 1961 Melbourne account issued in Volume 7. While the previously released traversal finds the pianist, who had suffered a major medical emergency, giving a rather robust reading, the interpretation presented here is more consistently spiritual and reverential in approach. Despite less-than-ideal microphone placement, we can easily admire the pianist’s golden sonority, burnished phrasing, impeccable timing, and refined nuancing in this truly inspired performance - as ideal an account of this work as one could hope to hear.

The closing of this volume will come as a surprise to those familiar with the fact that Spivakovsky never released a solo recording. The pianist went to the Parlophone studios in Berlin several times to accompany his violinist brother Tossy on some of his records, and on November 19, 1927 he made one test disc as a soloist. However, Jascha was unsatisfied with the limited tonal range of the record, and as a result his only solo studio effort was never issued. We present here for the first time the artist’s performances of Chopin’s Nocturne in F-Sharp Major Op.15 No.2 and Liszt’s Liebestraum No.3 from that studio session. In both works, Spivakovsky’s tonal colours, peaked phrasing, and incredibly broad dynamic range are appreciable despite the frequency range limitations of this 90-plus-year-old recording. Especially noteworthy is the pianist’s spacious timing at transition points (his rubato is beautifully coordinated with adjustments in dynamic levels) and his burnished lines soar above his measured accompaniment. Fans of historical recordings will be able to appreciate more here than the pianist himself could and will surely be grateful that this incredibly rare test disc (only one copy is known to exist) is now available.

Mark Ainley

Technical note

The two radio recordings, both dating from the 1950s, were generally in excellent condition, though the 1952 NBC recording improves on the 1956 BBC recording in a number of ways, not least the microphone position with relation to the piano, which in the later recording is somewhat distant. Alas this is something that cannot be changed 63 years after the event. Given the quality of the performance, this listener can only wish that NBC had commissioned a broadcast of the full Mozart concerto - the performance is exquisite, and the sound recording exemplary.

The two unpublished 78rpm sides hold astonishing levels of detail. These were made just two years after the first commercial "electrical" - i.e. made using microphones - recordings, and despite the early nature of them their clarity and tonality is exceptionally good. Background noise levels were slightly higher on the Chopin than the Liszt but neither is excessive - something of a relief when only a single copy of a disc exists. In both cases I've opted for relatively minimal intervention and noise reduction - the excellent sound quality you hear is a great demonstration as to how good these two recordings were.

Andrew Rose

SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch, Volume 11 (1951/61) - PASC586

This volume of the Jascha Spivakovsky Bach to Bloch edition features two concert performances with orchestra of works by the two composers whose names have graced this series’ title, closing the circle begun in 2015 with the first ever publication of private recordings of the stupendous Russian pianist who died in 1970 without having produced solo recordings. This particular issue is especially meaningful as it is being released in the 50th anniversary year of the pianist’s death at the age of 73.

The Bach-Busoni Concerto in D Minor BWV 1052 dates from a January 1961 concert given with the Astra String Orchestra (a local ladies’ ensemble) under the direction of George Logie-Smith. This concert took place the same week as Jascha’s release from hospital after a medical emergency and just a few days after the Beethoven G Major Concerto broadcast released in Volume 7. Despite his poor physical health at the time, Spivakovsky rose to the occasion magnificently, as can be heard by his tremendously vivacious playing. Particularly remarkable are the scintillating cadenzas that he composed himself, which are very much in the spirit of Bach’s time. However, he certainly does not replicate the kind of performance one might expect to hear on a harpsichord, instead taking full advantage of the expressive means of the piano with his fluid phrasing, sumptuous tonal colours, and skillful use of dynamic gradations. This is a truly vibrant interpretation that highlights the composer’s brilliant use of counterpoint and beautiful melodic content.

The Bloch Concerto Symphonique comes from a 1951 concert given with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under Sir Eugene Goosens: the Australian premiere was broadcast on May 15 and Spivakovsky played it several times around the country over the next two years. He had discussed the score with the composer himself while learning the work from the manuscript, lending a degree of authenticity to a traversal that may be the earliest recorded performance of this composition. The pianist plays with verve in this impassioned reading of a work that is incredibly challenging for all concerned (the conductor makes a timing error in the first movement for which Spivakovsky had to compensate)! As always, we hear him playing with beauty of tone, clarity of texture, and elegant phrasing - there is never a harsh sound even when the music has dissonance.

With this final Bach to Bloch release featuring Jascha Spivakovsky as piano soloist, we are more than ever able to appreciate the breadth of this great pianist’s repertoire and the magnitude of his highly individual interpretative abilities.

Mark Ainley

Click below to expand track listing:
SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch, Volume 1 (1955-67) - PAKM065
  • BACH-LISZT The Great Organ Fantasy & Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542
    Recorded Melbourne, November 1963

  • BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 21 in C Major Op. 53 (Waldstein)
    Recorded Melbourne, around October 1967

  • CHOPIN Ballade No. 1 in G Minor Op. 23
    Recorded Melbourne, December 1966

  • BRAHMS Romanze in F Major Op. 118 No. 5
    Recorded  c. October/November 1955 (location unknown)

  • DEBUSSY Prelude Bk. 1 No. 7, Ce qu'a vu le vent d'Ouest
    Recorded  c. February/March 1958 (location unknown) 

  • DEBUSSY Prelude Bk. 1 No. 12, Minstrels
    Recorded  c. February/March 1958 (location unknown)

  • KABALEVSKY Sonata No. 3 in F Major Op. 46
    Recorded Melbourne, c. May/June 1962

Jascha Spivakovsky, piano

Private recordings were made in Jascha Spivakovsky's music room in Melbourne, Australia by Michael Spivakovsky
Transfers by Crystal Mastering, Melbourne, Australia
Restoration and XR remastering by Andrew Rose at Pristine Audio

SPIVAKOVSKY Bach to Bloch, Volume 2 (1955-67) - PAKM067