Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Undefeated: William Kapell

"Was there any greater American pianist born during the last century than Kapell? Perhaps not. Certainly he was the most famous American-born player until Van Cliburn. He was a jukebox star during the 1940s, thanks to his performance of Khachaturian's Piano Concerto, a noisy showpiece that Kapell came to resent, in the way that Rachmaninoff came to loathe his own Prelude in C-sharp Minor.

He was also a stereotype of a native New Yorker: bright, brash, tactless, competitive, funny, cocky, and thin-skinned. He could be exceptionally generous and also nasty. He was a nervous, obsessive person—and meticulous (he kept a diary to record, down to the minute, how long he practiced each piece, toting up the numbers month after month)."

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