I was intrigued by the Zenph Re-performance "Rachmaninoff plays Rachmaninoff" mentioned in the December Newsflash and ordered my copy.
I must confess, I've never heard music so well reproduced mechanically on a piano. It is wonderful to hear the clarity in the polyphonic playing - especially in his own transcription of Tchaikovsky's Lullaby. Truly amazing and an almost incredible achievement to bring this to life again.
What a great idea also to give another version of the same recording on the same disc, this time with microphones placed exactly where the performer's ears would be! It would be a great idea for other live recordings to follow suit, but I suppose the physical presence of an actual human being sitting in front of the keyboard might create logistical problems for microphoning etc..
I was comparing the original recording of Liebesleid with this re-performance. There IS a difference. Although so much of the nuance and phrasing is immaculately preserved, the impinging bell-like quality of the melody in the original is no longer present and so much of Rachmaninoff's strong performing personality is expressed through his projection of melody. I sometimes feel aware that this is not a human being playing, despite the subtlety of the process - more a feeling rather than being able to put your finger on what is actually causing this, in the way you can with Welte-Mignon and Ampico piano rolls. Or perhaps I'm being unfair and this is an illusion motivated by prejudice in favour of real human beings; I wonder if others have found this or not.
Although, on their website, Zenph give some information about the piano used to recreate these performances (a 1909 Steinway), it would be fascinating to learn more about how their unique software, which reads and interprets the original recordings, functions. Exactly how does the software decide how to reproduce the recording? How, for instance, does it decide whether, in order to produce this melodic line, it needs more or less pressure on the melodic notes combined with less or more pedal? How have they attempted to address the problems of reproducing the timbre of one instrument on another? Wish they'd give more insight as it really is fascinating stuff.
Would be curious to read the opinions of others...
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