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If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

RECORDING OF THE MONTH

These discs have been withdrawn from sale as they may not feature Joyce Hatto after all.

They are thought to be performed by Carlo Grante from the Altarus label

Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)
The Complete Studies on Chopin’s Etudes

1. No. 1, Op. 10 No. 1 (1st version), C major [2'09]
2. No. 2, Op. 10 No. 1 (2nd version), D flat major, left hand [2'59]
3. No. 3, Op. 10 No. 2 (1st version), A minor, left hand [1'40]
4. No. 4, Op. 10 No. 2 (2nd version), A minor, 'Ignis fatuus' [2'01]
5. No. 5, Op. 10 No. 3, D flat major, left hand [4'47]
6. No. 6, Op. 10 No. 4, C sharp minor, left hand [2'42]
7. No. 7, Op. 10 No. 5 (1st version), G flat major [1'43]
8. No. 8, Op. 10 No. 5 (2nd version), C major [1'59]
9. No. 9, Op. 10 No. 5 (3rd version), A minor, 'Tarantella' [2'30]
10. No. 10, Op. 10 No. 5 (4th version), A major, 'Capriccio' [2'11]
11. No. 11, Op. 10 No. 5 (5th version), G flat major [2'00]
12. No. 12, Op. 10 No. 5 (6th version), G flat major [1'52]
13. No. 12a, Op. 10 No. 5 (7th version), G flat major, left hand [2'30]
14. No. 13, Op. 10 No. 6, E flat minor, left hand [3'37]
15. No. 14, Op. 10 No. 7 (1st version), C major, 'Toccata' [1'57]
16. No. 15, Op. 10 No. 7 (2nd version), G flat major, 'Nocturne' [3'17]
17. No. 15a, Op. 10 No. 7 (3rd version), E flat major, left hand [2'22]
18. No. 16, Op. 10 No. 8 (1st version), F major [3'18]
19. No. 16a, Op. 10 No. 8 (2nd version), G flat major, left hand [3'56]
20. No. 17, Op. 10 No. 9 (1st version), C sharp minor [2'56]
21. No. 18, Op. 10 No. 9 (2nd version), F minor, Imitation of Op. 25 No. 2 [3'04]
22. No. 18a, Op. 10 No. 9 (3rd version), F sharp minor, left hand [6'11]
23. No. 19, Op. 10 No. 10 (1st version), D major [4'39]
24. No. 20, Op. 10 No. 10 (2nd version), A flat major, left hand [2'38]
25. No. 21, Op. 10 No. 11, A major, left hand [3'18]
26. No. 22, Op. 10 No. 12, C sharp minor, left hand [3'11]
27. No. 23, Op. 25 No. 1 (1st version), A flat major, left hand [3'06]
Joyce Hatto (piano)
Rec. The Concert Artist Studios, Cambridge, 4th September and 10th October 2004
CONCERT ARTIST/FIDELIO RECORDINGS CACD 9147-2 [79.00]
1. No. 24, Op. 25 No. 1 (2nd version), A flat major, like a piece for 4 hands [2'36]
2. No. 25, Op. 25 No. 1 (3rd version), A flat major [2'56]
3. No. 26, Op. 25 No. 2 (1st version), F minor [3.43]
4. No. 27, Op. 25 No. 2 (2nd version), F minor, 'Waltz' [2'33]
5. No. 28, Op. 25 No. 2 (3rd version - A), F minor [2'32]
6. No. 28, Op. 25 No. 2 (3rd version - B), F minor [2'46]
7. No. 28a, Op. 25 No. 2 (4th version), F sharp minor, left hand [2'38]
8. No. 29, Op. 25 No. 3 (1st version), F major [2'22]
9. No. 30, Op. 25 No. 3 (2nd version), F major, left hand [2'30]
10. No. 31, Op. 25 No. 4 (1st version), A minor, left hand [2'13]
11. No. 32, Op. 25 No. 4 (2nd version), F minor, 'Polonaise' [6'13]
12. No. 33, Op. 25 No. 5 (1st version), E minor [3'34]
13. No. 34, Op. 25 No. 5 (2nd version), C sharp minor, 'Mazurka' [2'42]
14. No. 35, Op. 25 No. 5 (3rd version), B flat minor, left hand [4'24]
15. No. 36, Op. 25 No. 6, G sharp minor [2'20]
16. No. 38, Op. 25 No. 8, D flat major [1'25]
17. No. 39, Op. 25 No. 9 (1st version), G flat major [0'59]
18. No. 40, Op. 25 No. 9 (2nd version), G flat major, left hand [1'24]
19. No. 41, Op. 25 No. 10, B minor, left hand [4'25]
20. No. 42, Op. 25 No. 11, A minor [4'33]
21. No. 43, Op. 25 No. 12, C sharp minor, left hand [3'21]
22. No. 44, Méth. M-F No. 1, F minor, left hand Moscheles 1 [1'33]
23. No. 45, Méth. M-F No. 2 (1st version), E major Moscheles 2 First Version [4'04]
24. No. 45a, Méth. M-F No. 2 (2nd version), D flat major, left hand Moscheles 2 Second Version [2'03]
25. No. 46, Méth. M-F No. 3, G major 'Menuetto' Moscheles 3 Sole Version [3'45]
26. No. 47, Op. 10 No. 5 and Op. 25 No. 9, G flat major, 'Badinage', 2 studies combined [1'39]
27. No. 48 Op. 10 No. 11 and Op. 25 No. 3, F major, 2 studies combined [3'29]
Joyce Hatto (piano)
Rec. The Concert Artist Studios, Cambridge, 1st September and 10th and 11th October 2004
CONCERT ARTIST/FIDELIO RECORDINGS CACD 9148-2 [77.58]


 

Godowsky was only twenty-three when he produced the first of his Studies on Chopin’s Etudes. Relatively untutored compositionally but already a formidable teacher he sought in these works to consider technical problems, to extend technique, and to gain mastery over mechanical limitations as well as increasing his own repertoire. As he wrote, it was whilst practising Étude Op.25 No.6 that he wondered how better he could finger the double notes. Using his own preferred fingerings he then transposed the study purely for the left hand – and found that such a solution worked in other transpositions as well, which accounts for the high number of Left Hand studies amongst the Godowsky Studies.

The coruscating physical demands include unremitting contrapuntal lines, constant invocations by Godowsky for expressive playing (markings such as molto espressivo are everywhere – or seem to be) and a battery of Parnassus-invoking virtuoso challenges for both hands but for the left especially. These were often carried out by means of inversion – Godowsky giving to a large extent the right hand lines to the left – but the twenty-two studies for the left hand alone went beyond such residual recasting. These are fully-fledged masterpieces of polyphonic writing involving incredible fingerings and staggering, eyeball rolling textures in which you would be seriously hard pressed to think one hand alone at work. Godowsky makes one hand sound like two – and sometimes three – and the disbelieving ear is at a loss to know how.

The "53" are actually augmented by a fifty-fourth and the entirety consist variously of transcriptions, free transcriptions, inversions, free variations, etude-combinations, cantus firmus and a kind of metamorphosis. The decorative right hand flourishes, chordal difficulties and harmonic density add to the complexities and the result is that there have been very few complete traversals of the 53 on disc. David Saperton, Godowsky’s son-in-law, recorded some in the 1950s and nearer to us Carlo Grante recorded the complete set for Music and Arts. Marc-André Hamelin has set down an epoch making set for Hyperion.

Formidable and compelling, these performances by Joyce Hatto represent a remarkable distinction. It hardly hinders matters that she is one of the great Chopin players of the day. Given the level of technical mastery required to get fingers, thumbs, wrists, arms and the kitchen sink round these studies the confluence of sympathy with the original etudes fused with Batwoman-like pianistic agility makes these two discs mandatory listening for those excited by the genre. Of course readers will want to know about Hamelin’s Hyperion set. Well, having listened to both I can say this; if you think Hamelin invincible in this repertoire, prepare to ponder.

It’s going to be wearisome to cite keys, opus and version numbers so I’m going simply to note track numbers, from the first volume first. Note Hatto’s pathos and pointing in 1 but also note how Hamelin scores in 3 through control of voicings. He tends to pick out inner voicings in 4 whereas she corrals them. There’s nothing between them in 5 and both are playful and affectionate in 7 though Hatto’s timing vests it with fractionally the more wit. Note how in 9, at almost the same tempo, Hatto’s rhythm sounds the more natural, whereas Hamelin’s sounds just that bit too divisive. In 10 the Canadian is at his most gossamer and fluent, Hatto a touch insistent. More inner voicings are to be heard with Hamelin in 12, but Hatto is more poetic in 13 and employs the more effective rubati. I felt this in 21 as well – her playing is really alive and the mercurial magic that informs so much of her Chopin playing certainly courses here. Towards the end of the first volume one finds that Hamelin’s speeds pick up; before they were evenly matched and in maters of articulation there’s little between them. This works to Hatto’s advantage in 23; she is more metrical and hence funnier, bringing real wit to this study in a way Hamelin sometimes shies away from. It’s a personal matter but I did find him inferior to her in 24 – a touch monotonous. In the sole study on Op.10 No.11 she sounds more "spaced" – one gets the feeling that though this is a study it’s also more than a study; there’s something else going on as well.

In the second of her two-volume set (both available singly) we find that touches of rubato inflect her playing rather more than Hamelin’s. I realise that this will be somewhat controversial given Hamelin’s status – he is an astounding musician, no question – but I did find at times a rather bar-by-bar approach to some of these studies. Try Disc Two No.6 – the version for Op.25 No3, third version B. I feel she shapes phrases more maturely, the rubati sound more natural and ethos is more explicitly Chopinesque. True, he flows more freely in 7 but what about No.8, the first version of Op.25 No.3, the one that made Cortot so cross when he heard it. Maybe you’ll agree when I say I find Hatto more aerated and lively, each succeeding "outrage" sounding compellingly logical. I definitely side with her over 10 – such insouciant swagger, which sounds much more natural than Hamelin’s slowings down. He takes a more halting, military approach to 11 – though their tempo is the same – but cedes to Hatto in 13 in matters of geniality, and cultivates a heavier texture in 14. His articulation is certainly sharper and more incisive in 17.

All this goes to demonstrate that even in these superhuman studies there is room for manoeuvre – textually, in terms of tempi, tempi relationships, rhythm, articulation, pedalling and the like. There is certainly room for both views. There is also the question of the recording aesthetics. Hyperion’s is famously full of close clarity and warmth. Concert Artist generally tries to replicate a concert seat hearing. This can sometimes mean that, in comparison with Hyperion’s detailing, CA can appear shallower and less immediately detailed. It’s a question of perspective. What can’t be denied is the galvanising nature of the performances here by Hatto. If you are tempted to think that Hamelin’s superstar name will invariably eclipse Hatto you will be wrong. The performances demonstrate comparable virtuosity. It diminishes nothing from Hamelin’s great achievement to say that I find Hatto’s performances often more persuasive.


...A final word about the documentation; the booklet is full of analytical detail. Like the rest of this issue it's first class.

Jonathan Woolf



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