This is a well-played, thoroughly musical set of solo piano recordings, plus one concertante disc, all originally issued on Conifer Classics. Stott's piano playing is characterized by poetic nuance and musical loveliness. It consistently lacks something in power and drama, but that is not her style. The concertante disc is a particular delight, as it contains somewhat rare works of Ireland, Bridge and Walton. It was previously reissued in 2009 by Dutton, but, unusually for that label, was not newly remastered. The recording quality throughout the set is variable, most of it very good, some not quite as good (tending to be a bit muffled and congested).
One wonders why SONY has set its sights on the Conifer catalog for their recent Masters series box sets. (I realize SONY acquired Conifer Records at some point.) In addition to this piano set, they've recently issued an 11-disc set of the complete Conifer recordings of the music of Malcolm Arnold. Baffling when there is still so much material in the RCA and SONY vaults which either: a) has never been issued on CD; b) has been previously released but badly needs remastering; or c) could benefit from a nice, complete compilation. Three such boxes come to mind, which have been on my wish list for years:
- 1) a complete set of Charles Gerhardt's Classic Film Scores, newly remastered from the original sources. (The original RCA releases were "remixed" with Dolby Surround encoding in 1989, and the SONY reissues, 2 decades later, were not successful (which even SONY admits). They thinned out the sound and compressed the dynamics. This really needs to be rectified.)
- 2) a comprehensive set of Arthur Fiedler material, so much of which has been previously released (probably not from original master tapes) and sorely needs remastering. There is also some material which has never before appeared on CD. One priority for me is his recording of Gershwin/Robert Russell Bennett's "Porgy & Bess - A Symphonic Portrait", which originally appeared on a 2-LP set along with all of Fiedler's other Gershwin recordings which have been released, reissued and recoupled countless times over the years. But for unknown reasons, the Porgy & Bess has never seen the light of day on CD. I suspect the original master tape has been lost - oh I hope not.
- 3) a set of Charles Gerhardt's orchestral recordings for Reader's Digest, which were actually recorded in coordination with RCA at the time. Some (but not all) of this material has appeared on the Chesky label on a series of wonderfully remastered CDs in the early 90s. How glorious it would be to have it ALL compiled by SONY in one of their Masters Series boxes.
But I digress. Stott's piano set is enjoyable - her gift of emphasizing the musical line a consistent delight. But ultimately, this is not really essential listening, especially when disc 9 (with orchestra) is available on Dutton. And I still question the decision to reissue it.