This is another in the fine series of reissues of Welte Mignon piano rolls from Tacet. The German technology of the first three decades of the 20th century (starting in 1904) was by far the most sophisticated, complex and accurate of any of the piano roll systems. (Sort of a Rolf Goldberg technology.) Tacet’s WM-specialist has meticulously adjusted Tacet’s “Vorsetzer,” which is rolled up to the keyboard of a perfectly-tuned Steinway D, and the stereo recording quality is first rate. The mystery, of course, is that these really can’t be called historical recordings - it is as if Theodor Leschetisky - an important pianist and composer at the time - is actually sitting at the Steinway’s keyboard. Only the Zenph Studios computer-enhanced re-performances from old 78s and mono tapes are in the same ballpark as far as bringing us closer to historical performances. Those may have the advantage of a more accurate timing element, but the mechanical player-piano feeling is often unnoticeable in the best Welte reproductions.
Young Leschetizky was born in 1830 and was taught by Beethoven’s pupil Carl Czerny. He was described as "a volcano of a man," and was known for his charismatic personality. He was also a respected pedagogue. When he recorded these rolls in 1906 his Farewell Concert was already 20 years behind him, but he clearly enjoyed cutting this little collection of pieces. The only sizeable one is the fascinating Mozart Fantasie in C minor. Once Brahms had poked fun at Leschetizky’s "little trifles," and Leschetizky retorted, "they’re ten times more amusing than yours." Could be.