Mordecai Shehori’s recitals
invariably offer examples of a superior pianism and articulate
musicianship rarely found. This one is no exception. It conjoins
Schumann and Liszt to form a recital of embracing strength
and sentiment, far-reaching in technical prowess and deep
in expressive control.
opens with Schumann’s Arabesque. I remember reading a review
of Shehori that implied that he had rabble-rousing tendencies
but all my experiences of listening to his recordings have
proved – on the contrary – that his virtuosity is entirely
at the service of the music, and comes from within, and is
not imposed from without. Anyone who thinks him rabble rousing
is welcome to give an audition to this unusually intimate,
sensitive and subtle performance of the Arabesque in which
rubati are perfectly judged, the music making is flexible
but has spine, and in which Shehori locates – in one spine
tingling moment - a caesura of regretful stasis. Memorable.
is heard in its Lisztian garb and marks a warmly textured introduction
to the Second Sonata, still not as often performed as it
might or should be. Levitzki was one of the discographic
pioneers of the work back in 1933 and he predictably takes
a rather more linear and acerbic approach to it. Shehori’s
playing however is warmly reflective, and graced by his singing,
finely calibrated tone and textual and chordal balance. One
feels that everything has been judged, weighed and absorbed – nothing
mechanical or unspontaneous emerges; on the contrary it’s
a vibrantly alive performance. He plays the original finale
with skittish direction and total assurance.
it comes to Liszt’s Harmonies du soir
a relatively measured tempo, and a performance in the grand
manner though one that does not take liberties. Well characterised,
without doubt, it builds to a splendidly established climax.
There are great reserves of weight and tone here but never
flouted or wasted and Shehori is careful not to pummel or
drive through his tone. Structural integrity is always maintained.
Francis of Assisi preaching to the Birds
from Two Legéndes
, is similarly accomplished and
here the evocative eloquence of his approach is married
with control of dynamics to great effect. The Ballade No.
2 shows how Shehori establishes rather different priorities
from other pianists. He is less daemonic then, say, Horowitz
or Kentner – and he tends to use far less pedal than the
latter – but he establishes and maintains an indomitable
dynamism of his own, entirely divorced from gestural playing.
is no indication as to locations and recording dates on this
disc so I’m not sure if they all derive from the usual sources
in New York. One or two do seem a touch boxy but certainly
not enough to impair appreciation of yet another formidable
disc from Shehori. Why isn’t this man an internationally