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Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918 – 1990)
Symphonic Dances from West Side Story (1960) [20’12"]
George GERSHWIN (1898 – 1937)

Three Preludes (1926) [6’23"]
Bela BARTOK (1881 – 1945)

Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (1937) [25’13"]
Guher and Suher Pekinel (pianos)
Peter Sadlo and Stefan Gagelmann (percussion).
rec. Salle de Musique, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, June 1988. DDD
WARNER APEX 2564 62118-2 [52.01]

The Pekinel sisters have made the recording of this type of repertoire something of a speciality; their Stravinsky Rite of Spring is notable. In addition, they have recorded many original works for two pianos.

Here, in a re-release of a Teldec recording of 1993, at superbudget price, we have three fairly modern pieces, two in arrangements for two pianos, and two pianos plus percussion, in tandem with Bartok’s piece written for the current instrumental grouping.

The Bernstein Suite is in an arrangement by Paul McKibbins and Robert Phillips under the supervision of the composer. The percussion has been arranged by Peter Sadlo. Bernstein has recorded the full orchestral version of the suite at least twice professionally with the New York Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Sony and DG respectively. Those who love the orchestral score will find this arrangement wanting in the lushness of Bernstein’s exceptionally skilled orchestration. In addition the very prominent jazzy syncopations sound a little forced here. I think this is a result of the classical training of these two superb pianists being unable to "let go". Otherwise, I found this performance very satisfying.

Much the same criticism may be levelled at the Gershwin Preludes, although without the distraction of the percussion, the two soloists can concentrate on realizing Gershwin’s sound-world. This is really very good playing of these relatively short miniature masterpieces.

When we reach the Bartók, we are in a different realm, and one which I find our soloists very much at home. There are no external factors - such as being able to project the jazz influences - to worry about, simply Bartók’s Sonata, performed as it was written, with no additional instruments or influences. This work has been extremely lucky in the recording studio to date and this performance can hold its head up high in such exalted company as Nelson Freire and Martha Argerich, Stephen Kovacevich and Martha Argerich, Ashkenazy (father and son), the Casadesus father and son, Murray Perahia and Georg Solti, among others.

The recording is very well balanced between percussion and soloists, and Bartók’s interplay between the two pianos may be clearly heard, being tossed between the two instruments to the manner born.

This is an interesting disc, very well played and recorded, in addition to its extremely low price. If the repertoire attracts, then you will be well pleased with this disc in your collection.

John Phillips




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