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Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Fantasy in D minor K397 (1782 or 17860-87) [5.53]
Andante for the Mechanical Organ in F major K616 (1791) [5.10]
Adagio in B minor K540 (1788) [6.50]
Rondo in D major K485 (1786) [4.33]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Sonata in A Major Op.2 No.2 (1794-95) [22.21]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Six Polish Songs:
A Maiden’s Wish Op.74 No.1 [4.12]
Spring song Op.74 No.2 [3.12]
Silver Ring Op.74 [2.14]
A Drinking Song Op.74 [2.11]
My Joy Op.74 [4.33]
The Dead Knight of the Forest Op.74 [1.32]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Rapsodie espagnole S254 (1863) [13.47]
Mordecai Shehori (piano)
Recorded in 1998, no recording details
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD100 [76.26]

That excellent New York-based pianist Mordecai Shehori has been producing records on his own Cembal d’Amour label for some time now, a number devoted to important historical survivals but an equal number devoted to his own performances. It’s important that such things are recorded because in the absence other evidence we should simply have to rely on the critical consensus surrounding his concert programmes and the like.

Shehori is seen in some quarters as a powerhouse player but this is quite wrong. I’ve reviewed several of his other discs and they show commanding technique put to the service of entirely musical aims. The rationale of this programme may be somewhat hazy – it has rather an odd "look" to it – but the playing as such is always of engaging warmth. The Beethoven sonata for example may jolt those more used to Kempff’s more muted dynamic attaca but that vivacious leaping fourth with which it begins is not stinted and one senses Shehori feels the pull of a forward-looking Beethovenian drive rather than the more residually Haydnesque approach others may find. If he never quite manages to reach the climaxes of the slow movement with Kempff’s infallible timing one can note how he prefers auburn colours in preference to the singing treble of the older master. And in the scherzo he prefers a more grazioso and gentle approach to dynamics, whilst Kempff gives us a twitchingly visceral and vertical sound world. Sometimes in the finale Shehori’s bass drama may seem a touch outsize but his coffee coloured tone makes an interesting point of departure; more contained and with mellower voicings.

His Chopin songs in their piano solo guise make for fine and contrastive listening. The keen treble singed sonorities of The Maiden’s Wish contrast with the delicate tracery of Spring, the dance rhythms of the Drinking Song rub shoulders with the much better known My Joys. Shehori doles out the dramatic impetus when necessary whilst maintaining a singing line in the more lyric moments. The Mozart quartet of pieces may summon up, for some, the spirit of Horowitz. He was especially taken by the Adagio and by the Rondo and left recordings of both. Shehori brings a definable pensiveness to the Fantasy and elsewhere etches the bass with powerful incision. He finishes with a Barere standby, the Rapsodie espagnole, by which it’s better known than the booklet’s Anglophone ‘Spanish Rhapsody’. This has attracted some of the most tigerish of Klaviertigers over the years – Kissin, Gilels, Petri (in his master Busoni’s orchestrated arrangement) as well as Arrau, Berman and a phalanx of others. None, Shehori included, breaches Simon Barere’s blistering live performance of 1947, itself even better than his 1934 commercial HMV recording. The galvanizing drama of that lies in a stratosphere all its own. Shehori’s talents are altogether less sulphurous, as indeed are almost all pianists’. He approaches this mountain with a full, even and rounded tone, a "chiming" treble and characteristic bass etching. And he’s certainly no tempo lingerer and brings reserves of unforced power to bear.

Shehori shows what an adept and poetic player he is in these performances. True, the recordings don’t capture the full piano spectrum with absolute immediacy but quite enough to reveal Shehori’s ardent and self-evident gifts.

Jonathan Woolf

 

 

 



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