Recordings with works by Chopin and other composers
Raoul von Koczalski - today nearly forgotten - brings us, thanks to his recordings of the 1920's and 30's, in direct contact with the pianistic style of Frédéric Chopin, in view of the fact that his primary pianistic influence in his early youth was Karl Mikuli, one of the most important students of Chopin himself. Mikuli gave his last student Koczalski special attention, since he wished the young Wunderkind to pass on the tradition Chopin had entrusted to him.
On the first of the two CDs, archiphon presents the last of Koczalski's Chopin recordings on shellac that until now have not been republished, among them the 24 Préludes Op. 28 as well as certain Waltzes and Mazurkas. Of special historical importance is also the facsimile reprint of parts of an essay by Koczalski from 1909 on the style and interpretation of Chopin's music.
Beyond his Chopin recordings, however - and this is new and until now completely inaccessible - Raoul von Koczalski shows himself to be a transitional figure between the pianistic tradition of the 19th century and the "modern" interpretation style of our own time. This is demonstrated by the recordings of works by other composers – from Mozart to Bartok -- on the second CD, from original recordings in the collection of Deutsches Musikarchiv and Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv. In contrast to his virtuoso colleagues at the turn of the century such as d'Albert or Paderewski, Koczalski takes many more pains to maintain continuity of tempo, balance of dynamics and precision of touch. Nonetheless, he too makes use of the rubato style of the past century - already out of fashion in the 1930's - in his asynchronic play between the two hands, so that melody and accompaniment are articulated from each other, as well as tempo changes - stretching and contracting the tempo within the melodic line. Since Koczalski however uses agogic devices only locally and for specific effect, they do not seem to be mere antiquated mannerisms. In a certain sense, he succeeds in achieving a synthesis between the old rubato style and the modern style with its emphasis on precision. His use of rubato enlivens the gesture of the musical language and enhances the expressive character of the music.
Koczalski shows that strict adherence to the score and metronomic precision are not necessarily guarantors for 'authenticity'. The recordings on this pair of CDs are thus much more than dusty museum documents: on the contrary, the perceptive listener will find in them a stimulation to a finer sense of interpretation connoisseurship that is very much up to date!