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<<  -- 2 --  Gordon Rumson    LEGENDARY ARTIST


Thereafter, Gunnar Johansen turned to his studio and began his gigantic recording projects. Concerts still occurred with startling regularity, but his focus was now towards creating what he would later call his Monuments to Music. By 1960 or 1961 he had recorded all of Bach and Busoni's mature compositions and transcriptions and then begun his work on Liszt. In 1976 he finished Liszt's music on Christmas Day and on New Year's Day 1977 began recording his own compositions. In the 1980s he completed the other series. His last recordings date from the late summer of 1990 just 10 months before his death. Along with all of these series he recorded many works by Godowsky, Chopin, Grieg, Beethoven and others.

Today the recordings can be had only on LP or cassette. The sound quality ranges from rather good to poor. It may be that as Artist Direct was a private effort, the project to convert the masters into CDs will also be a private project.

What are the performances like? First, Johansen was a stupendous technician. He was also more significantly a profound musician with a total grasp of style, sound, harmony and counterpoint. David Dubal wrote:

'Johansen is a titanic virtuoso with lightening reflexes. His grasp of chordal masses is wonderful. His approach to the piano is one of fearlessness...Yet one of his most endearing qualities is a compelling elegant sweetness...Once you have become familiar with Johansen's playing, you will not mistake it for another's.'***

***David Dubal, 'Johansen: The Recordings', High Fidelity Magazine (November 1976), p. 91.

Johansen performed a vast range of the piano repertiore and it should come as no surprise that Kenneth Derus approached him in the 1970s to try to convince him to perform the Opus Clavicembalisticum of Sorabji. Sadly he declined, and the world is the vastly poorer. For probably Johansen alone among pianists stood at the level Sorabji demanded. Johansen's command of counterpoint would have allowed him to reveal the depth of Sorabji's fugues unlike any other.

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Copyright © 21 January 2001 Gordon Rumson, Calgary, Alberta, Canada






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