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Rarities of Piano Music at Schloss vor Husum 2003
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)

Les Soirées de Nazelles
Jonathan Plowright (piano)
Pierre de BRÉVILLE (1861-1949)

Portraits de maîtres

Florent SCHMITT (1870-1958)
Valse-Nocturne No 1
Marie-Catherine Girod (piano)
Carlos GUASTAVINO (1912-2001)

Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)

Dansa do Indio Branco (Ciclo Brasileiro No 4)
Arturo Sudbrack Jamardo (piano)
Wilhelm STENHAMMAR (1871-1927)

Poco allegretto (Sensommernätter, op 33 no 5)

Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Quatre Préludes, op. 22
Kaikhosru SORABJI (1892-1988)

Etude transcendante No. 13
Fredrik Ullén (piano)
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Romanza in fa (1844)
Julian SCRIABIN (1908-1919)

Prélude, op 2 (1918)
2 Préludes, op 3 (1918)
Prélude (1919)
Andrea Bacchetti (piano)
Mikhail GLINKA (1804-1857)

Brilliant Variations (on a Donizetti theme "Anna Bolena", 1831)
Elena Kuschnerova (piano)
Recorded at the Husum Festival, August 2003


This is a Danacord series that seems set fair to continue just as long as the Husum Festival does. And that appears in a healthy state, to judge by the proliferation of artists booked yearly in August, from which these recordings have been extracted. There’s a brief preface explaining the circumstances of recording, principally in reply to criticisms made of the castle acoustic, and a colour photograph on the back of the booklet does show the intimate room with low ceiling and small audience. It’s true that there is a certain acoustic constriction but given the eclectic nature of the programming – some of these pianists really do come up with some welcomingly obscure things – it’s less of a concern than it would be in the canonical repertoire.

Man of the moment and Hyperion star Jonathan Plowright kicks off with Poulenc – and I wish the movements of Les Soirées de Nazelles had been separately banded but never mind. This is cultured and imaginative playing, not short on charm and power either and he mines those moments of Chopinesque delicacy, Schumannesque reverie, Stravinskian tartness and music-hall drollery that makes this so irresistible a score. Maybe he’s not quite Pascal Rogé’s equal in panache but at least he doesn’t indulge the composer’s officially sanctioned cut version as Eric Parkin did for Chandos. Le Coeur sur la main is especially lyrical and the ‘Handel in the Strand meets Music Hall’ romp negotiated with real verve. In the final stretch where Poulenc asks for Follement vite Plowright is certainly fast but also meticulously precise over articulation. This is the meatiest work on the disc.

De Bréville wrote his homages to fellow French composers – eleven or so minutes of amusing evocation of the styles of Fauré, d’Indy (especially fine at his rushing drama), Chausson and the composer’s own teacher Franck where Marie-Catherine Girod (Bax star) plays out the left hand octaves with verve – and a trivially dropped note or two only attests to the spontaneity of the playing. Schmitt’s Waltz is pert and salonesque. Arturo Sudbrack Jamardo gives us some Latin American colour – big applause after his Villa-Lobos – and Fredrik Ullén gives us a Chopinesque Stenhammar, a good Scriabin and a totally unnecessary Sorabji (a futile trill and tremolo study – Ullén is apparently embarking on a major Sorabji recording project). Andrea Bacchetti gives us more Scriabin but look at the headnote carefully; it’s his son, Julian, by his mistress Tatyana de Schloezer. These amazing pieces, so redolent of his father, were written when the boy was barely eleven, the same year in which he drowned in the River Dnieper in what are called ‘still unexplained’ circumstances. Highly chromatic and portentous they received their first performances in 1969. Finally there is Elena Kuschnerova in Glinka – powerfully modulated as ever with this pianist and illuminated by her characteristic finesse and poetry.

As followers of this series will have realised by now this is another in the line of ‘Best Ofs’ from Husum. It’s a bit of a One-Off as well and mainly for the omnivorous pianophile. You know who you are.

Jonathan Woolf


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