William Kapell, a brilliant and successful pianist by his early 20s, dead in a plane crash at the age of 31, has long since entered into musical folklore. A generation of music lovers has grown up with the legend of young Kapell?the superb technician who produced flamboyantly extroverted performances of 20th century Russian piano music by Rachmaninoff, Khachaturian and Prokofiev, yet who was also capable of intimate, exquisitely honed renditions of works by Chopin, Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven and J.S. Bach; the indefatigable worker renowned among peers for his extended practice sessions; the darkly handsome man with the movie star looks and the smoldering intensity. Every new recording permits us a new vantage point on Kapell, who may have been the finest of all American-born pianists and whose example helped prepare the way for Van Cliburn, Peter Serkin, and Richard Goode and the many other "home-grown" artists who have risen to prominence in the years since his death. The present release is especially valuable, as it captures a performance of one of his signature pieces, the Khachaturian Piano Concerto, with his great mentor, Eugene Ormandy. This concerto has come in for some bad press over the years, but it has withstood the ravages of time surprisingly well, especially when played with the giddy, devil-may-care dynamism Kapell brings to it here. But the prize of this set is the rendition of Rachmaninoff?s Piano Concerto No. 2, featuring Kapell with perhaps the only contemporary who could rival him for intensity and charisma, the young Leonard Bernstein. Kapell was still in his 20s, and Bernstein only barely into his 30s, when this recording was made on 18 February 1951? and it is very much a young man?s recording: urgent, sweeping, exciting.
CD-1109(1) William Kapell ? Unissued Broadcasts. Rachmaninoff: Concerto No. 2 in c for Piano & Orchestra, Op. 18 New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, cond. Leonard Bernstein (18 Feb. 1951). Khachaturian: Concerto in Db for Piano & Orchestra Philadelphia Orchestra, cond. Eugene Ormandy (8 Apr. 1944). Total time: 61:47 017685-11092-4 AAD.