The recordings are from Kapell's last concert tour in Australia, from which he was returning when he was killed in an airplane crash in 1953. The performances were preserved by Roy Preston, a retired Melbourne department store salesman and manager who made a habit of recording concerts aired by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from the late 1940s onward.
The recordings include performances of Prokofiev's Sonata No. 7, Debussy's Suite Bergamasque, the entire Mozart Sonata in B-flat, K.570, and two Chopin pieces, none of which were previously recorded by the pianist (the second movement of the Mozart sonata is, however, available).
Preston died in 2003, and his collection fell to a friend, Maurice Austin. When Austin realized what was in the collection, he contacted the Kapell family.
The recordings, preserved on three 16-inch acetate discs, will be turned over tomorrow, according to the Times, to Kapell's widow, Dr. Anna Lou Kapell-Dehavenon, in New York. It is unknown whether or not the music will be commercially released.
Daniel Guss, director of BMG Music's classical catalog, said, "It's as if somebody were to find a dozen new paintings by Rembrandt or a lost film by Charlie Chaplin." BMG Classics' Red Seal line released a nine-CD set of nearly all of Kapell's commercial, and some noncommercial, recordings in 1998.
Kapell was 31 when he was killed. He had had only a dozen years of professional career behind him, but nonetheless was already a legendary figure. In his book The Great Pianists, Harold C. Schonberg wrote of Kapell, "he was well on his way to being one of the century's important pianists."