In the second volume of their Naxos series Zhou and Battersby programme some warhorses – many of Kreislerian stamp – with more unusual, recondite pieces. If this makes for a somewhat uneasy disc – in terms of genre and stylistic disparities – it serves to sustain interest throughout its length.
Zhou employs a number of expressive devices to heighten
moments of lyric intensity and she has a good control of dynamic gradation,
a quality equally shared by Battersby. Especially worthy of note is
her veiled tone – most explicitly used in the Op 15 Ballad – which imparts
a softened texture to her tonal resources. In this she is joined by
Edmund Battersby – listen to his subtle range of dynamics, left and
right hand alike, in one of the well-loved Slavonic Dances, the G Minor.
The two musicians’ basic impulse is good in the G Major dance but the
pizzicato ending could have been less deadpan and rather more wittily
pointed. Silent woods originally began as a piano duet and is better
known in the cello arrangement. Here, though, both musicians are alive
to its evocative lyricism even if this arrangement will never efface
the lower voicings of the larger instrument. The Nocturne is a relatively
early work and somewhat meandering and unfocused – well though they
both try to evoke its melodic contours it still emerges impossibly diffuse
whereas the Humoresque’s lyrical central section is attacked with relish
– though not always optimum tonal allure. Zhou isn’t afraid to turn
on the heat in the Kreisler arrangement of Songs my mother taught me
– passionate and evocative playing though maybe excessively so for some
tastes. It’s especially interesting to hear the Capriccio (Rondo di
Concerto) which is an immature work, unpublished in Dvorak’s lifetime.
It is couched in a familiar Konzertstuck manner, essentially Germanic,
bristling with rhetorical devices and a battery of textbook Romantic
virtuoso tricks which this piano arrangement does nothing to disguise
(the version for violin and orchestra is, apparently, lost**). It’s
simultaneously a piece both too big for its boots and too insignificant
for rediscovery. Convincingly played, though. A rather miscellaneous
recital then but with committed performances and in a reasonable acoustic
it is frequently of considerable interest.
** We have received information via our
bulletin board that the orchestral score is not at all lost!
The Dvorak Konzertstuck was played in a dazzling manner, with Italian
Television Orchestra conducting Leopold Ludwig by Aldo Ferraresi, the
best Ysaye's pupil, in 1967.
See review of Volume