Alan Gampel: Chopin & Liszt Piano Sonatas
ďAlan Gampel plays these two contrasting but quite brilliantly conceived Sonatas in B minor with passion and intelligence... His poise, the control, dignity and fluency is captivating, as are these rich and voluminous notes cast by the Italian spruce soundboards that dominate a spacious and dry acoustic where the vibrant piano image has terrific solidity, presence and intensity,Ē says HiFi+.
If you love these giants of High Romantic piano, our CD is a must have: a best-ever recording; a stunning, virtuoso performance; and an amazing Fazioli piano with sound that transcends Steinways or Bosendorfers. Producer Max Wilcox (Rubinsteinís legendary producer at RCA) told Pierre Alanís performance of Liszt is one of three or four best ever recorded.
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REVIEW by The Sensible Sound
TIn my younger days I would have looked over the Mapleshade catalog, taking note of the tweak devices for sale and associated claims for these devices. The catalog would then have been then unceremoniously thrown into the wastebasket without my bothering to check out the recordings from this label. I would have been wrong. Oh, would I have been wrong!
Tweak devices and claims aside, the recordings from Mapleshade define state-of-the-art two channel/stereo recording. I have yet to hear sound equaling that which comes off a Mapleshade CD. I don't know what is different about the 16-bit permutation chunks coming off the Mapleshade recordings, but different they are, and the result is sound closely approximating a live performance. The Liszt and Chopin Sonatas exemplify, 1 believe, two-channel sound so good that any improvement will be so incrementally small as to make it hardly noticeable! I don't know how Pierre Sprey (producer and recording engineer) does it but I don't have a problem with tweak devices and claims when the sound is this good. This is my number one choice for best CD in 2003.
The sonatas played here are by Liszt (Piano Sonata in B minor) and Chopin (Sonata No. 3, Op. 58 in B Minor), two lesser-played but wonderful compositions. The pianist (Alan Gampel) plays Liszt straightforward and clean. Liszt though is not Chopin, and in more ways than one. Liszt is flamboyant and there's all sorts of finger gymnastics and finger dancing in his composition. Pleasurable music and well played by Gampel. But Chopin is the big leagues of piano playing. I don't recall his name (old age) but I paraphrase what a concert pianist once said of Mozart: Other composers may write what looks like much more sophisticated and complex compositions with room for pianist to waver a bit with most not noticing. But just waver a bit with Mozart and you can drive a truck through the hole! Ditto for Chopin. That said, Gampel, in spite of his youth, does a creditable job with the Chopin. He doesn't waver but there's much more to Chop, much more. Only time will tell if Gampel enters the big leagues or remains at the triple A level. My feeling is he's a can't-miss prospect.
A quick comment about the piano used for this recording. It's a Fazioli (Model 278) concert grand. In addition to Pierre Sprey raving about the sound emanating from this instrument I had two friends (amateurs devoted to the piano) go into throes of ecstasy upon hearing the piano used in this recording. I'll take their word for the piano sound being better than that of any piano out there but the recording engineer also deserves some credit!
As an aside, I have talked to Pierre Sprey. He is the salt of the earth, a real gentleman. My intentions are to visit Pierre's studio sometime in 2004 and see how he how achieves the "you are there" sound of the Mapleshade recordings. -Joseph M. Cierniak
REVIEW by HiFi+
Alan Gampel plays these two contrasting but quite brilliantly conceived Sonatas in B minor with passion and intelligence.This finely etched, bold and natural sounding recording of his Fazioli Model 278 concert grand piano at St. James Episcopal Church, Leesburg captures the essence of both pieces. The Chopin No.3 OP.58 is a magnificent series of emotional statements true to the four movement classical sonata form and yet at the same time deeply affected by the composerís own deteriorating health, the ending of a seven-year love affair and the death of his father. The tension builds throughout culminating in a truly heroic ending. Lisztís extrovert single movement work is propelled by his imaginative preoccupation with Faustian themes. Musically, it juxtaposes frenzied and demonic displays with sensitive and delicately sculpted images and in the process gives ample opportunity for virtuoso flamboyance. Gampel traverses these situations with appropriately weighted and exquisitely melodic performances. His poise, the control, dignity and fluency is captivating, as are these rich and voluminous notes cast by the Italian Spruce soundboards that dominate a spacious and dry acoustic where the vibrant piano image has terrific solidity, presence and intensity. -Rueben Parry