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On the Works and Notes of Charles Rosen

In response to:

Versatile, Fearless Charles Rosen at the Piano from the April 7, 2016 issue

To the Editors:

In his “Versatile, Fearless Charles Rosen at the Piano” [NYR, April 7], Robert Winter perpetuates several factual errors that should not stand uncorrected. He states that “Rosen became the first to record all twelve Debussy Études”—a claim made frequently in earlier references about Rosen, including Jeremy Siepmann’s booklet notes for the CD set under review. Not so; the first was the South African pianist Adolph Hallis, who recorded the Études for English Decca in 1938, some thirteen years before Rosen’s first recording. (A review of the Hallis set can be found in the December 1938 issue of The Gramophone.) Winter goes on to state that Walter Gieseking “recorded the Études in his old age, the year after Rosen.” In actual fact, Gieseking’s recording (for English Columbia) dates from late 1954, three years after Rosen’s disc, when Gieseking was fifty-nine years old—an “old age” considerably less than that of Professor Winter at this point in time.

Winter is also under the mistaken impression that Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit “had been recorded only twice” before Rosen’s 1959 version. Eighteen times would be more accurate; in addition to the cited Gieseking and Pennario recordings, Rosen’s was preceded by Jean Doyen, Boris Zadri, Frank Glazer, Bernhard Weiser, Grete Scherzer, Robert Casadesus, Marcelle Meyer, Gina Bachauer, Henriette Faure, Friedrich Gulda, Vlado Perlemuter’s first recording (of two), a second Gieseking version, Reine Gianoli, Daniel Wayenberg, Samson Francois, and André Tchaikowsky—all available before 1959.

Finally, in mentioning Rosen’s Bach recordings in the CD set, Winter laments the absence of any Rosen notes on the music: “Inconceivable that Rosen provided nothing for these groundbreaking releases.” True, the CD box contains none, but the original “groundbreaking” Odyssey LP issue (from 1969) contained very extensive notes by Rosen on all the works included.

Donald Manildi
Curator, International Piano Archives at Maryland (IPAM)
Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library
University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland


Charles Rosen on His Own April 21, 2016