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A Buyer's Guide to Historic Piano Recordings Reissued on Compact Discs

By Donald Manildi (Curator, IPAM) and Farhan Malik

Buyer's Guide S-Z



In 1904 and 1919 Saint-Saëns recorded various selections from his own works. All of these discs are available on APR 5533 (coupled with Cécile Chaminade's 1901 recordings). APR's transfers here, however, have been criticized as falling somewhat short of ideal. A significant improvement is now available by way of MARSTON 52054 (two CDs), containing all of the Saint-Saëns recordings (including accompaniments) as well as the complete Debussy, Grieg, Pugno and Diémer.


OLGA SAMAROFF (1880-1948)

A pupil of Ernest Hutcheson and of Alkan's illegitimate son Elie Delaborde, Samaroff (originally Lucy Hickenlooper) went on to teach such eminent players as Kapell, Lewenthal, and Weissenberg. She recorded many discs for Victor between 1921 and 1930. Almost all of them were at one time available on PEARL OPAL 9860. Fortunately, as of spring 2024, a complete run of her Victor discs can now be had on APR 6044 (2 CDs, also containing Frank La Forge's solo Victors.) Samaroff's Victor recording of the Grieg Nocturne is included in SIMAX 1809 ("Grieg Piano Music in Historic Interpretations").


HAROLD SAMUEL (1879-1937)

Remembered mainly as a leading Bach interpreter, this British pianist's nearly complete recordings were once available in KOCH 3-7137 (two discs). Fortunately, new transfers of the same material by Seth Winner can now be found on the APR label (APR 6036). Also included is Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No.5 which Samuel played on a 1935 NBC broadcast. Definitely worth avoiding is a SYMPOSIUM CD (1309), self-described as "the complete solo [Bach] piano recordings (1923-1931)" but this is not correct; it omits two Preludes and Fugues. Furthermore, the transfers are noisy and the documentation ignores issue numbers and timings. Samuel joined forces with violinist Isolde Menges on 78rpm sets of the Brahms A Major and D Minor Sonatas; these were reissued on BIDDULPH LAB 076.



Born in Puerto Rico, Sanromá made many records for RCA Victor in the final decade or so of the 78rpm era. Two Pearl CDs (0076 and 0123) offer a good cross-section of his playing, with concerti by MacDowell, Paderewski and Gershwin, Liszt's "Totentanz", and other works. On PEARL 9020, Sanromá plays the Stravinsky Capriccio (conducted by Koussevitzky), while BIDDULPH LAB 052/3 includes the Schumann Quintet with Sanromá and the Primrose Quartet. His collaboration with Paul Hindemith in four-hand and viola sonatas by the latter is represented in BIDDULPH LAB 087.



Sapellnikoff played Tchaikovsky's Concerto No.1 under the composer's baton and made the first recording of that work. The concerto and a selection of Sapellnikoff's solo discs for Vocalion, all dating from the 1920s, were issued on PEARL 9163. However, this is now superseded by a 2015 release from APR (6016, two CDs) containing Sapellnikoff's complete recorded output in fresh transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn.


DAVID SAPERTON (1889-1970)

The son-in-law of Godowsky and teacher of (among others) Jorge Bolet, Shura Cherkassky, Abbey Simon, Sidney Foster and Julius Katchen, Saperton recorded two Victor discs in 1940 with the Johann Strauss-Godowsky Kunstlerleben (reissued on VAI 1019) and the Albéniz-Godowsky Triana (IPAM 1206). His later recordings date from the early LP era and include all 27 Chopin Etudes, eleven of Godowsky's Studies on the Chopin Etudes, and shorter works by Godowsky. These have been reissued on VAI 1037, a 2-CD set.


EMIL SAUER (1863-1942)

Sauer studied with Nicolas Rubinstein and later with Liszt. He made his first recordings around 1923 for the Spanish Regal label and continued to record for various other labels until 1941. His commercial 78s have been issued on MARSTON 53002, a 3-CD set. This is a complete edition except for two additional very rare Regals that turned up too late for inclusion. Both Liszt Concertos and an abridged Schumann Carnaval are among the repertoire. Selections from Sauer's 78s can also be found on PEARL 9403, 9972 (Pupils of Liszt), and 9933 (Friedheim, Siloti and Sauer). In addition, ARBITER 114 contains Sauer's live Schumann Concerto with Mengelberg from 1940 plus 35 minutes of solo works from German radio archives.


DIRK SCHÄFFER (1873-1931)

A noted Dutch pianist and composer, Schäffer recorded a variety of short works in the 1920s. An essentially complete CD edition may be found on PEARL OPAL 9861.


IRENE SCHARRER (1885-1971)

Sometimes erroneously described (as in the New Grove Dictionary) as a cousin of Myra Hess, Scharrer studied with Matthay and recorded both acoustic and electrical discs for HMV and Columbia. A selection of these (Purcell, Chopin, Liszt, et al) can be found on PEARL 9978. Now available is a 2-CD set from APR (6010) containing a comprehensive survey of Scharrer's recordings, extending from 1912 to 1933. Some additional Scharrer material is included in "A Matthay Miscellany," APR 6014.



This Polish virtuoso and composer made seven recordings for the Columbia Graphophone Company between 1911 and 1913. All of them are now available on APR 6016 along with the complete recordings of Sapellnikoff.



Born in Denmark, Schiøler worked with both Friedman and Schnabel, later becoming a practicing psychiatrist as well as an acclaimed performer. He made a number of discs (78s as well as LPs) for Danish HMV that were preceded by a series of 78s for Tono and other labels, dating back to the 1920s. A good selection of his earlier recordings is obtainable on a 2-CD set from DANACORD: 491/2. More recently, Danacord has produced four additional 2-CD sets of Schiøler recordings from both commercial and noncommercial sources: 781/2, 832/3, 867/8, and 872/3..


ARTUR SCHNABEL (1882-1951)

Schnabel's recordings are well represented on CD. He was the first pianist to record all 32 sonatas of Beethoven, and these recordings (1932-35) have been reissued as an 8-CD set on EMI 63765 as well as in five separate multi-disc volumes (11 CDs total) on PEARL 9083, 9099, 9123, 9139, and 9142, with transfers by Seth Winner. As a bonus, the PEARL volumes include almost all of his additional solo Beethoven recordings, among them the Diabelli and Eroica Variations. Naxos has issued all of Schnabel's HMV solo Beethoven on single CDs in transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn. There are eleven volumes altogether (8.110693, 8.110694, 8.110695, 8.110756, 8.110759, 8.110760, 8.110761, 8.110762, 8.110763, 8.110764, 8.110765). Warning: various European entrepreneurs have packaged Schnabel's Beethoven on CDs, "borrowing" their source material from previous reissues rather than using the original 78s. Labels that fall into this category include Dante, Membran, Piano Library, Arcadia, Classica d'Oro, Nuova Era, and Centurion. 

During the same time, Schnabel became the first pianist to record all five Beethoven Piano Concertos (with Malcolm Sargent conducting). These are available on the 3-CD set PEARL 9063 and on individual NAXOS discs: 8.110638, 8.110639 & 8.110640. In 1942 he re-recorded Concertos 4 and 5 in Chicago with Frederick Stock conducting, and these performances were reissued on RCA 63193.  Schnabel also re-made the Beethoven Op.109 and 111 Sonatas for RCA Victor. These, plus Concertos 4 and 5 and a previously-unreleased version of the Schubert Impromptus Op.90 have appeared in a 2-CD box from Sony/BMG: 88985389712. In 1946-47 he recorded Concertos 2-5 again. These performances have been released on TESTAMENT 1020 and 1021.

Schnabel was also the first pianist to record a significant amount of Schubert's music. He recorded two of Schubert's final three sonatas (D.959 and 960) in 1937 & 1939 (available on EMI 64259 or PEARL 9271), the D major Sonata in 1939 (EMI 64259 or PEARL 9272), all eight Impromptus in 1950 (EMI 61021), the six Moments musicaux in 1937 (EMI 64259 or PEARL 9272), various Lieder with his wife (contralto Therese Behr) in 1932 (PEARL 9272), some four-hand duets with his son Karl Ulrich in 1937 (PEARL 9271 & 9272), the Trout Quintet in 1935 (PEARL 9272), and a few minor works. All of the foregoing Schubert recordings have been conveniently boxed in a five-CD set on MUSIC & ARTS 1173, with new transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn.

Mozart is another composer favored by Schnabel. He recorded five solo concertos (K459, K466, K467, K491 & K595) plus the Concerto for Two Pianos. All of these are included on the 3-CD set EMI 63703, and all but two are on PEARL 0006 (two CDs). Of the solo works Schnabel recorded the Sonata K310 (PEARL 0006), Sonata K332 and Sonata K570 (both on EMI 63703). His recording of the Rondo K511 can be found on EMI 63703, PEARL 0006, and APR 5526. Two Mozart chamber works with Schnabel are available: the G minor Quartet (Pro Arte Quartet members, EMI 63870) and the Violin Sonata K481 (live with Szigeti: PEARL 9026). All of the foregoing studio Mozart recordings by Schnabel have now been collected in a five-CD MUSIC & ARTS set (1193) along with several broadcast performances of Schnabel in other Mozart works. Two single M&A CDs (4632 and 750, the latter no longer in print) contain additional concerto broadcasts.

Schnabel also recorded works of Bach and Brahms. His complete Bach performances can be found on EMI 67210. Warning: the identical Bach collection has also been assembled on DOREMI 7740, but the transfer quality borders on the grotesque, with clearly audible digital artifacts among many other problems. Pearl offers two CDs (9376 and 9399), each containing one of the Brahms Concertos plus works by Bach. The Brahms Concertos can also be found on NAXOS 8.110664 & 8.110665. The latter CD is filled out with Schumann's Kinderscenen.

Other Schnabel CDs include APR 5526 (his complete solo recordings from 1946-47), ARBITER 121 (sonically problematic live Brahms chamber music from 1947), Music & Arts 1196 (Dvorak and Schumann Quintets), PEARL 0125 (Beethoven Cello Sonatas with Fournier), and lastly a two-CD selection in the Philips "Great Pianists" edition.



The son of Artur Schnabel, Karl Ulrich made several 78s for HMV in the 1930s in addition to the often-reissued Schubert duets with his father; these were released in the US by RCA Victor. TOWNHALL 74 (two CDs) contains excellent transfers of works by Bach, Paradisi, Schubert and Mendelssohn, including several previously unpublished test pressings of Mendelssohn Songs Without Words. This CD set also offers material by other members of the Schnabel family.


CYRIL SCOTT (1879-1970)

This significant British composer was, by many accounts, a formidable pianist. In the late 1920s he recorded eight of his own pieces, and transfers of these are now available on DUTTON CDLX-7150 (two CDs) which is otherwise devoted to new recordings of Scott's music by Leslie De'Ath.



An outstanding British pianist who studied in Paris with Philipp, Sellick was also the wife and duo-piano partner of Cyril Smith. A CD on the SOMM label (079) offers a selection of her 1941 discs of Tippett (Sonata No.1), Ravel, Debussy and others. However, Somm's transfer work is totally incompetent: thick, dull, bass-heavy, and a complete misrepresentation of the perfectly acceptable-sounding original 78s.


BLANCHE SELVA (1884-1942)

This important French pianist, a preferred interpreter and confidante of Albéniz, Dukas, d'Indy and many other composers, left only a few recordings (of Bach, Beethoven, Franck, and Séverac), all dating from 1929-30. Her Bach Partita No.1 is available in a noisy transfer on PEARL 9495. It and most of her other discs then reappeared on MALIBRAN 177, but the amateurish restorations are barely tolerable.  Fortunately Ward Marston has produced a CD in his "Lagniappe" series containing all of Selva's solo 78s. Also available is a reissue on the French Solstice label (SOCD 351/2),  which adds Selva's collaborations with violinist Joan Massia in sonatas by Beethoven and Franck.


RUDOLF SERKIN (1903-1991)

Most of Serkin's early recordings, which began in 1929, were collaborations with his father-in-law, the violinist/conductor Adolf Busch. Their sonata recordings have been gathered on three separate CDs from APR: 5541, 5542, and 5543. An EMI set (54374, two CDs) contains some further material, notably Serkin's first Beethoven "Appassionata" and the Mozart Concerto K449. Unfortunately some sloppy engineering has removed the fortissimo chord that announces the finale of the Beethoven. This gross error was perpetuated in the Philips "Great Pianists" volume devoted to Serkin. Additional Serkin/Busch collaborations from 1930s are spread over several EMI CDs; these consist of trios, quartets and quintets by Schubert, Brahms and Schumann.

Live 1936 Serkin performances of Mozart (K595) and Beethoven (No.4) concertos with Toscanini have been released on GUILD 2228/9. A later (1944) broadcast of the Beethoven Fourth Concerto with Toscanini may be found on RCA 60268. In 1941, Serkin began recording for American Columbia. From that period, his Beethoven "Emperor" conducted by Bruno Walter is on SONY SMK 64489, and the Brahms D Minor Concerto with Fritz Reiner was reissued on LYS 127. These, as well as Serkin's entire Columbia/CBS/Sony discography, can be had in a mammoth 75-CD boxed edition, issued in 2017 (Sony 88985404062).



One of the great losses to posterity is the absence of any significant disc recordings or broadcasts by this renowned Liszt pupil, who was also the cousin of Rachmaninoff. The only surviving listenable material is a brief fragment of Siloti improvising as caught on a crude home recording device. This fragment may be heard on PEARL 9933 along with Arthur Friedheim's complete recordings and a selection of items played by Sauer.


LEO SIROTA (1885-1965)

Yet another pupil of Busoni, Sirota began recording in the early 1920s for Homocord. Some remarkably poor transfers of these discs were at one time available on DANTE HPC 054/5. Additional, later Sirota material, mostly from private recordings, may be found on ARBITER 110, 123, and 137 - the latter is all Chopin. PEARL 9014 and 9156 (both devoted to "Busoni and his Circle") contain a few more Sirota performances, including (on 9156) the first complete recording of Stravinsky's "Three Scenes from Petrouchka".


JAN SMETERLIN (1892-1967)

Almost all the recordings of this Godowsky-trained Chopin specialist date from the LP era. However, Smeterlin made two Polydor 78s around 1929. One of them, an abridged Schulz-Evler "Blue Danube," was transferred to CD on VAI 1019 (an anthology of Strauss waltz paraphrases played by various pianists). A previously-unissued Decca 78 has recently appeared on Decca Eloquence 484 1308 (2 CDs) along with Smeterlin's 1949 all-Chopin recital for the BBC and his complete Chopin Nocturnes. A major recent discovery is Smeterlin's 1936 performance of Chopin's F Minor Concerto with Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony. It is included in MARSTON 52076-2, "Landmarks of Historic Pianism, Volume Three."


CYRIL SMITH (1909-1974)

Smith was a British virtuoso who left some impressive recordings before he suffered a thrombosis in 1956 that curtailed his two-handed career. A sampling of Smith's artistry from the 1940s, mostly in Rachmaninoff repertoire, is available on DUTTON CDCLP 4004 and APR 5507. Smith's other solo discs (Chopin, Schubert, Balakirev, Albéniz, Dohnanyi) can now be heard on APR 7313 (three CDs) which contains all of Smith's solo and concerto recordings.



Sofronitsky studied at the Leningrad Conservatory with Leonid Nikolaev. He became one of Russia's most beloved pianists, but because he almost never had the opportunity to venture outside Russia he remained practically unknown in the West for several decades.  Although there have been more than 100 CDs released in various parts of the world containing his recordings, many are hard to obtain or no longer available.

SCRIBENDUM, BRILLIANT CLASSICS, and MELODIYA have all issued box sets of various sizes devoted to Sofronitsky's art.  Of these, only the 34-CD set SCRIBENDUM SC817 is currently available.  It provides a solid overview of Sofronitsky's recorded output though the listed recording dates are not always accurate. Also, it must be noted that this set contains no booklet notes whatsoever.  An earlier 9-CD set BRILLIANT CLASSICS 8975 serves as a solid introduction to Sofronitsky's art, but is even worse in terms of recording date accuracy, providing incorrect and unreliable recording dates throughout. Lastly, MELODIYA 10 02312 ia a 5-CD set devoted entirely to live performances of various composers, and it also includes a documentary film about Sofronitsky as a bonus DVD.

Those not interested in large sets can seek out MELODIYA 2237, a 2-CD release containing works by Chopin, Schubert/Liszt, and Scriabin. Other options include the 2-CD set HANSSLER (Profil) 15007 with performances by Sofronitsky of eight Scriabin Sonatas (Sonatas 1 & 8 are played by Neuhaus and Richter as Sofronitsky never recorded them), and the double CD ARBITER 157 containing a live Scriabin recital from the Scriabin Museum in 1960 in varying sound quality.

There are numerous single CD issues by the VISTA VERA label containing both live and studio recordings, though practically all of their contents are included in the Scribendum set. A long out-of-print 15-volume series on the Japanese DENON label is highly recommended, though extremely difficult to find.  Also worth seeking out are the two CDs MOSCOW CONSERVATORY SMC 19 & 20 that feature live performances unavailable elsewhere.  Lastly, all of the Sofronitsky CDs issued by the ARLECCHINO label should be avoided as they simply contain poor transfers direct from LPs with obtrusive surface noise and all inherent scratches, pops, and clicks left intact.


SOLOMON (1902-1988)

Originally Solomon Cutner (not Cutner Solomon, as some sources have insisted), this eminent British player began making records in 1929 and continued until he was felled by a stroke in 1956 (not 1965, as claimed by the New Grove Dictionary). His earliest discs (Tchaikovsky Concerto No.1 plus Chopin and Liszt solos) are readily available on NAXOS 8.110680 in smoother transfers than on a competing Pearl CD (9478). Solomon's complete Chopin 78s have been gathered on TESTAMENT 1030. However, for unknown reasons Pearl has seen fit to assemble a portion of those Chopin recordings (omitting the F Minor Ballade), together with a duplication of the Liszt items, on PEARL 0177. Unfortunately Roger Beardsley's transfer of the Chopin Fantasy carelessly excises more than a full measure of music at 4:41. Another Beardsley transfer on Pearl (0038) offers 1940s Solomon recordings of Scarlatti, Haydn, and Beethoven. Here an opposite problem occurs: in the first movement of the Beethoven Sonata Op.2 No.3, at 4:43, the side join is extended with a longer pause than what Beethoven wrote.

Additional Solomon 78s are available on Naxos, APR, and Testament. His wartime sets of the Beethoven 3rd and Arthur Bliss Concertos are coupled on NAXOS 8.110682. The Beethoven Archduke Trio (with Holst and Pini) and Brahms-Handel Variations are on APR 5503, while his later Tchaikovsky Concerto No.1 and Scriabin Concerto are available on TESTAMENT 1232. Solomon's last recordings (from the early LP era) are almost all accessible now on TESTAMENT CDs. Collectors not seeking Solomon’s complete recordings can obtain a representative 7-CD sampling in the EMI (Warner) “Icon” series: 06102.


VICTOR STAUB (1872-1953)

Yet another Diémer pupil (along with Cortot, Casadesus, and others), Staub's recordings date from 1927-29 and consist of 15 short pieces, including some of his own. These French Odéon 78s have been transferred on APR 6028 (two CDs) along with recordings by another Diémer pupil, Lazare-Lévy.



Born in Denmark, Stockmarr enjoyed a long and distinguished career, but left relatively few recordings. An essentially complete reissue of them is divided between DANACORD 442/3 and 482/3, together with discs by Ellegaard and Werschenska.



Stravinsky's piano recordings include his own Capriccio for piano and orchestra, his 1925 Serenade in A, his Piano Rag Music, and the 1932 Duo Concertante with violinist Samuel Dushkin. All of these historic interpretations are available on EMI 54607 (two discs) and on SONY SX2K 46297 (two discs).


KAROL SZRETER (1898-1933)

An interesting but short-lived and now virtually forgotten Polish pianist who studied with Egon Petri, Szreter is represented on a two-CD Pearl set (0146) that includes the majority of his recordings. These were first issued by Parlophone around 1927-1930, and the repertoire is mainly Beethoven (including Concerto No.4 with Anton Rubinstein's cadenzas), Schumann, and Liszt.



The greater part of Tagliaferro's recorded legacy exists on LP recordings. Her 78s (including the Reynaldo Hahn Concerto) were at one time available on two separate CDs from DANTE: HPC 088 and 095. A selection of them has been available on PEARL 0157.  More recently, APR has produced a CD edition of all of Tagliaferro's solo and concerto 78s in excellent transfers by Ward Marston (APR 7312, three CDs).


ERIK THEN-BERGH (1916-1982)

This outstanding German pianist, little-known outside central Europe, recorded a series of Electrola 78s around the start of WW 2, including works of Handel, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, and Reger. All of these have now been given their first CD transfers on APR 6021, along with Then-Bergh's 1958 recording of the Reger Concerto conducted by Hans Rosbaud.



An important "discovery" of piano archeologist Allan Evans, this major pupil of Ignaz Friedman is represented by only about two-and-a-half hours' worth of performances, mostly recorded privately or off-the-air. All can be found in ARBITER 116 (two discs, titled "The Lost Legend of Cairo") with extensive background information. ARBITER 158 contains remastered versions of the same material, and some additional performances.



Valmaléte studied with Isidor Philipp and recorded for Polydor in the 1920s, but little thereafter. Several of her Ravel, Debussy, and Liszt recordings are included in PEARL 9495 together with discs of other French women pianists. The Arbiter label has issued an extensive representation of her 78s on CD 144.



A Portuguese virtuoso, pupil of Liszt and disciple of Busoni, Vianna da Motta made some discs in France for Pathé in 1928 and was also captured in a live performance of Liszt's Totentanz shortly before his death. At one time his complete recordings could be obtained on DANTE HPC 28. New, much better transfers are now available on a special "lagniappe" CD (L012) produced by Marston.


RICARDO VIÑES (1875-1943)

Viñes was a Spaniard justly renowned for his advocacy of both Spanish and French piano music. He left about an hour's worth of recordings dating from the late 1920s. An ill-conceived Pearl Opal reissue (9857) contains an incomplete survey, bizarrely joined to an equally incomplete array of recordings by Francis Planté. Fortunately, the Marston label has produced a complete Viñes edition in its "Lagniappe" series (L 007). Included are two fragmentary Debussy performances from 1930s radio broadcasts.


BRUNO WALTER (1876-1962)

This famous German conductor (and disciple of Mahler) studied piano with Dreyschock. In 1937 he recorded the Mozart D Minor Concerto (K466, with cadenzas by Reinecke), leading the Vienna Philharmonic from the piano. It has been reissued on PEARL 9940 and on EMI 63912. An additional Walter performance of this concerto from two years later, from an NBC Symphony broadcast, can be heard on AS Disc 404 and Andromeda 9012.


JOSEF WEISS (1864-1945)

Apparently one of the more eccentric Liszt pupils, Weiss is best known for his highly individual recording of Liszt's 12th Hungarian Rhapsody (see PEARL 9972, Pupils of Liszt, two CDs). He made a number of other 78s for both Anker and German Parlophone (including a complete Beethoven Op.31 No.3 Sonata), which have yet to reappear on CD. One of Weiss' Anker 78s features an abridged Adagio from Beethoven's Emperor Concerto, in which Weiss is accompanied by the asthmatic wheezings of Karl Stabernack on the harmonium.



Born in St. Petersburg but later a resident of Denmark, Werschenska made many 78rpm discs, mostly of shorter solo pieces, during the 1940s. Two separate Danacord sets, each containing two CDs, provide a generous selection (along with other Danish women pianists): 442/3 and 481/2.


MICHAEL ZADORA (1882-1946)

This American-born disciple of Busoni recorded fairly extensively during the 1920s (for Polydor) and later. A complete Zadora edition on two CDs is available on APR 6008. Meanwhile a few examples of his playing can also be found on PEARL 9014 and 9156 ("Busoni and his Circle") and on NAXOS 8.110777.


CARLO ZECCHI (1903-1984)

Another member of Busoni's "circle" in Berlin as well as an erstwhile Schnabel pupil and later on a noted conductor, Zecchi made many 78s for Cetra, Ultraphon and other labels as well as a few LPs in the 1950s. A sampling of Zecchi performances from the 1930s, mostly Chopin and Liszt, may be found on PEARL 9086 (two CDs, together with early Michelangeli recordings). More recently, the Italian Fonoteca label has produced a comprehensive 8-CD edition of Zecchi's recordings, but these will be difficult to obtain. More accessible is a 2018 production from APR (6024, two discs) containing all of Zecchi's Cetra 78s and a selection of other rarities.