Ah, yes...Below is where I first heard of these recordings from Kapell's Australian tour. Jerome Lowenthal mentioned them in his well-written reflection on Kapell:
Studying With William Kapell—A Personal Perspective
By JEROME LOWENTHAL
William Kapell was well on his way to becoming one of the 20th-century's most venerated pianists when in 1953, at age 31, he was killed in a plane crash returning from a concert tour in Australia. This past November, a cache of privately made recordings from that tour were discovered, a significant find for the music world. In this article, Juilliard faculty member Jerome Lowenthal, who studied with Kapell, reflects on the legendary pianist—who himself studied and taught at Juilliard—and the newly found recordings.
Seen through the wrong end of the time-telescope, William Kapell's all too short career seems shaped by a kind of aesthetic predestination: a blaze of brilliance too intense to be long-enduring. I understand this view, but my memory yields a very different perception of the young man who, in the summer of 1950, offered to be my teacher. For this extraordinary artist of 28, life and art were opening like a flower—dolce sfogato, as in Chopin's Barcarolle.
William Kapell in a photo used for his Town Hall debut flyer in 1941. (Photo by Apeda NY)
"I am going to study with W. Kapell—details later," I wrote in an intentionally uninformative postcard to my mother. "Details, later," indeed! The details of my prior studies, the death of Olga Samaroff, my failure to get into the Curtis Institute, the second-rate shenanigans of first-rate musicians, seemed irrelevant as I began a new life as disciple and worshipful student, a life of apparently unlimited possibilities.
Our first lessons were wonderfully relaxed. Kapell and his beautiful wife Anna-Lou and their infant son David were spending some weeks in a cottage on the Piatigorsky estate in Elizabethtown, N.Y., while I was a guest at the nearby summer home of the great impresario Fredric Mann (a subject for another article), whose chauffeur drove me to my lessons. In our sessions together, Kapell would ask me to talk as well as play, and then he would do both. His talk had the enchantment of the simultaneously poetic and scabrous, and the playing, in its burnished passion and heart-stopping honesty, was unique. Then, as later, he loved to play Chopin mazurkas, Schubert dances, and Bach suites, and he would do so for hours. I did a lot of fly-on-the-wall socializing with the Kapells and the Manns, and once he invited me to join him and Anna-Lou on a drive to Montreal, where he was playing the Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. The dazzle of the performance and the glamour of the outdoor setting merge in my memory with the wide-ranging humoristic savagery of his conversation, and I might say that his ecstatic sense of music as obligation entered through the open pores of my mind.
In the fall, he was back in New York with a busy concert schedule. As I was living in Philadelphia, my lessons entailed a combination of train trip, subway, and crosstown bus in order to arrive at the Kapell home on East 94th Street, across from the townhouse of one Vladimir Horowitz. The New York lessons, at an ash-littered piano dominated by a huge Picasso of clasped hands, were not so relaxed as the ones in Elizabethtown. He was sometimes displeased with my playing, and I am afraid that cold fear found its way into my heart. When he said "Yeah, well that wasn't very good a-tall," I knew the pangs of damnation. On the other hand, when he liked it, he would call in his wife and ask me to play again for her, and there would be a sense of general festivity.
Perhaps I should say another word about Anna-Lou. It would be an oversimplification to say that I was in love with her, but in my private diary, my code-name for her was "Venus," and to this day the sound of her voice on the telephone gives me a slight shiver of pleasure.
And Kapell's teaching? Did he teach technique, I am often asked. He did indeed teach technique, but his commitment to piano playing was so organic and his sense of technique so fierce that it merged with his sense of the music. In one of our first Elizabethtown lessons he said, "I'm practicing the B-minor scale now ... a very passionate scale." Scales and arpeggios were very important (harmonic-minor always), and strong fingers as well as beauty of sound were of almost fetishistic importance to him.
When he described another pianist's fingers as being akin to spaghetti or his sound as uncannily evoking the aural image of a woodpecker, there was little more to be said. (He was, incidentally, famously unkind in his comments about his colleagues. This was surely a fault, but let us remember that this great artist was hardly more than a boy.)
In the summer of 1952, he and his family (which now included Becky) rented a home in Westwood, Calif., and he invited me, along with two other students whom he had acquired, to come there and work with him. One of them, Joel Ryce, and I rented a house in Santa Monica, where we practiced and gossiped adoringly about our teacher. It was during that summer that he asked us to drop "Mr. and Mrs." and to call him and his wife Willy and Anna-Lou. It was also during that summer that we heard him play the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto at the Hollywood Bowl. We were overwhelmed. "There's just nothing to say," I said breathlessly to Anna-Lou, who, ever so dryly, answered: "Well don't tell him that—he thinks you say far too little already." Thus did I learn that it is not unacceptable to pay a compliment to one's teacher.
In the fall, lessons resumed in New York, but he was extremely busy and I saw somewhat less of him than formerly. In April of 1953, he went to Israel on the first of a series of international tours. One of his neighbors (no, not Horowitz) gave a farewell party for him, at which I managed to get extremely drunk. Playwright Clifford Odets, who had been at the party, took me in a taxi to the train station. I never saw Willy again.
And now, like papyri in the desert, recordings of Kapell's last concerts in Australia have been discovered. Among them, Prokofiev's Sonata No. 7, Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, Debussy's Suite Bergamasque, Mozart's Sonata in B flat (K. 570), Chopin's Barcarolle and Scherzo in B Minor, and a stunning Rachmaninoff Third. I've had the privilege of hearing some of them. How can I describe them? He had been changing as person and artist, and these recordings are startling evidence of that change. There had always been a triad of qualities in his playing: fierce virtuosity, meticulousness, and controlled vulnerability, but now the vulnerability has reached the outer limits of psychic self-exposure. All of the playing is remarkable, but the Rachmaninoff Third in particular captures the essence of Kapell and is surely the epitome of great playing. Although it is not yet clear whether the recordings will be commercially released, I hope that someday many people will be able hear them and treasure them.
Jerome Lowenthal has been on the Juilliard piano faculty since 1991.[/b] http://www.juilliard.edu/update/journal/j_articles447.html