Aureole etc.

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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Mordecai Shehori (piano). The New York Recitals: Volume One
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Sonata in F minor Op. 5
Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Nocturne in F major Op. 15/1
Nocturne in B major Op. 9/3
Scherzo No. 3 in C sharp minor Op. 39
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Gaspard de la Nuit
Mordecai Shehori (piano)
Recorded on 2nd April 1977 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD 107 [69.36]
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Mordecai Shehori, Israeli-born, studied with the Rumanian pianist Mindru Katz, whose legacy he has furthered by issuing performances on Shehori’s own Cembal d’Amour label. Further studies with Beveridge Webster and Claude Frank followed and Shehori was fortunate enough – and talented enough – to come into Horowitz’s orbit, experiences about which he reminisced thoughtfully and perceptively in Harold Schonberg’s biography of Horowitz. For his recital at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which he gave a quarter of a century ago now, in April 1977 he chose a demanding programme that tested technique and stylistic affinity. The Brahms Op. 5 Sonata is a big, bold work and receives a commensurately big, bold performance. In the opening Allegro Maestoso he is powerful and propulsive from the initial bars and is on splendidly energetic form. Even in the Andante he is strongly active without any sense of rhythmic lassitude – he clearly sees this, rightly, as a youthful and passionate work and makes no attempt to subvert that – and in the poco piu lento section of the movement he is inwardly reflective but at a still reasonable tempo. There are oases of romantic repose in the Finale but Shehori’s playing is strongly forward-looking and takes a long line in all the movements.

The trio of Chopin pieces make an intelligent grouping. In the F minor Prelude he is excellent at contrastive playing – the sense of romantic dreaminess and the urgency of the romantic passion are all coalesced - and in the succeeding B major we see another side of Shehori. Here his teasing rubati are joined by the leading voices of the right hand and a sense of his not playing a proper legato but preferring instead to concentrate on an intriguing use of rhythmic displacement. His Scherzo is strong willed and passionate, with his strong, active rhythmic sense fully engaged. In the difficult conclusion to the piece he ties the left hand well, creating excitement in profusion and driving to an overwhelming finish – undeniably dramatic, if perhaps rather too much so. The recital here ends with Gaspard de la Nuit. Comparison with so towering a Ravelian as Gieseking is instructive. Shehori isn’t as even in Ondine as the older man; in Le Gibet Shehori prefers insistence and intensity whereas Gieseking’s priorities are the pictorialism of the swaying and of the church bells. Shehori’s Scarbo is certainly malign and not to be trifled with and noticeably more athletic than Gieseking’s.

This is a strongly characterised recital by a musician well versed in matters of text and performance practice. My abiding impression is of his Brahms, so full of youthful and vigorous action, so keen to press on to the next thematic view, and so satisfying in execution.

Jonathan Woolf

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