Russia's rather dully named Classical Records label continues to mine a rich lode of old recordings by names that are hardly known in the West. Henry Neighaus, born in 1888, finished his studies amid war and revolution. A relative of Karol Szymanowski, a student of Leopold Godowsky, and a teacher to Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels, among others, he had a long career as a teacher at the Moscow Conservatory. In the mercurial playing on display in these Chopin performances one can hear hints of the styles of various musicians with which he was associated, but he is unique -- and more extreme than most of them. His performances seethe with energy, and his etudes and waltzes grab the listener's attention with sheer forward motion. The nocturnes and more reflective mazurkas, on the other hand, become poetic creations with fine shades of tone. Neighaus was apparently the kind of pianist who freely disregarded conventional tempos, a composer's dynamic markings, or anything else he felt interfered with penetration to a work's essence, and listeners may by nonplussed by some of the interpretations here -- they will not, however, be bored. Neighaus' playing has a wonderful, commanding immediacy that seems to erase the boundary between recording and live performance. A serious flaw in the presentation of this album is that there is no information given about recording dates and places (there were probably several) -- an inexplicable omission in a historical re-release. The middle-Soviet-era sound, however, while it can't be called warm, at least catches the impressive dynamic range that was a key part of Neighaus' arsenal.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim