Felix Mendelssohn – A Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture – Roll recording C.1908

Here is one of Mendelssohn’s best known works which was played and recorded on a piano roll around 1910. The four hands arrangement (presumably by Mendelssohn) was performed by two pianists, Josef Weiss and Emerich Stefaniai who together made a number of rolls in duet at Leipzig for Hupfeld AG before WW1.
Both pianists have unfortunately been long forgotten.
The Austro – Hungarian pianist Josef Weiss had a very distinguished career – he was not only a ‘pupil’ of Liszt, but friend and colleague of both Mahler and Busoni. A technically gifted pianist, his style of playing although somewhat eccentric was brilliantly effective. He recording many piano rolls but very few gramophone records, all show an interesting interpretative approach.
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find out much about Emerich Stefaniai He was probably from Hungary and a child prodigy – certainly at the time he made this roll he was still a very young man and he may have been a pupil of Weiss. Maybe someone has more information?
For those who think piano rolls are not a valid recording medium, it is worth pointing out that longer piano works such as this could not in the 1900’s be recorded on to gramophone records without either making huge cuts or the pianist playing beat the clock. The roll recordings therefore in many ways are a more faithful record of the overall performance but not necessarily of the dynamics.
My apologies for the sound distortion in the upper volume level – four hands make it FF and evidently my camera couldn’t cope.

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