The liner notes to this restoration open with the disclaimer: “This is not an historical recording: quite the opposite. TACET’s recording techniques, renowned for their crystal clarity and spaciousness, score another triumph here.” Invented in 1904, Welte-Mignon piano rolls quite accurately recorded an artist’s touch and tempo indications on the paper rolls‚ possessing 80-88 control tracks and further tracks at the edges for controlling the dynamic nuances and for operating the pedals. Adjusted for height, the Vorsatzer device was pushed up against the piano keyboard so that the felted fingers lay exactly on the keys. Thus, the session by Richard Strauss in 1906 at the Welte-Mignon studio is herein duplicated on a modern Steinway D, and we can hear his own realizations of some of his own repertory.
Strauss always claimed his music should possess the same lightness we find in Mendelssohn. Those who hear in Strauss only purple prose may find some unexpected lucidity and charm in the composer’s renditions (16 February 1906) of the Salome passages, with his undemonstrative yet supple rhythm quite effectively delineating transitions and contextual thickness. The major entry is Salome’s Dance of the 7 Veils, in rippling piano Technicolor. The Mood-Pieces are particularly telling: small character-pieces quite like Mendelssohn and Schumann, they ring true under Strauss’ hand in The Lonely Waters and Reverie. The two love-scenes, from Ein Heldenleben and Feuersnot respectively, seem to confirm Beecham’s chosen tempos in the his orchestral renditions. The two Op. 27 songs enjoy a diaphanous transcription to the keyboard, the lushness of the sentiment of Cecilia coming through without aggressive percussion on the part of Strauss. At just forty-and-one-half minutes, few record-buyers are going to jump at this recording: but those who do can play all sorts of sophisticated party jokes, keeping their guests wondering who made such a facile piano reduction of Salome’s erotic dance.