One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here
 

 

International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger


AVAILABILITY

www.jamesarts.com

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Goldberg Variations BWV988
Haskell SMALL (b.1948)

Twenty-Five Preludes (1985)
Haskell Small (piano)
Recorded at Rutgers Presbyterian Church, New York, May 1986 (Small) and at the Church of the Epiphany, Washington D.C, March 2003 (Bach)
4 TAY4028 [79.09]


Composer-pianist Haskell Small studied at the San Francisco Conservatory and at Carnegie-Mellon University. He also took piano studies with, inter alia, Leon Fleisher and composition with Vincent Persichetti. Born in 1948, he frequently performs his own music and also that of Bach. He was a semi-finalist in the Bach International Piano Competition. As he explains in his note itís not conceit that leads him to bracket his performance of the Goldberg Variations with his own 25 Preludes, but rather that he patterned the Preludes after the Goldbergs; using block chords that journey through the major and minor keys. Additionally they are cyclical and fit into patterns. This of course sounds cerebral and unyielding; a schematic approach that might assign each "set" an impenetrable sense of mechanics or mathematics.

Not true, however, in practice. As with the Goldberg Variations, Small has ensured that the disc is tracked to reflect the structural blocks. His style is certainly eclectic. I hear the influence of impressionism in the first prelude; there is pawky humour in the second, a 1930s vamp (with witty sign-off figure) permeates No.4. He inflects the cantabile of No.5 with nightclub piano bar insouciance Ė demotic and noble in close proximity Ė but summons up Mussorgskian chordal granite when required. He is hypnotic in No.8 and isnít that the ghostly skeleton of John Brownís Body in No.12? I enjoyed his fractious, nasty and argumentative fugue and the big contrasts he sets up between attacca and lyrical moments. Interestingly he apparently only noticed the Reveille theme later; itís there all right, and seems to make a transformed reappearance at the end, though he doesnít mention this. He covers bluesy show tunes, touches of Shostakovich, a Funeral March, song-like moments and, in the end, a searching, questing intimacy. The work is dedicated to the composerís father who died during the year the Preludes were written.

No room, obviously, for many repeats in the Goldberg Variations. Itís a warm performance, with a tripping, semi-staccato harpsichord touch in the Aria and some playful voicings. Five is rather soft-grained and not all the lines are brought out with immediacy elsewhere. I liked however the pomposo start to 16 and the affectionate realisation of the slower variations.

The recorded sound is good, the composer-performer acquitting himself with panache in his own work and paying apposite homage in the Bach. An interesting compositional voice Ė steeped in impressionism, show tunes and the gaudy traffic of after hours Ė a good brew.

Jonathan Woolf



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and get a free CD

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical



Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Return to Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.