First of all an apology
and then mitigation! I recently reviewed
the Naxos ‘Complete Solo Piano Works
of Lukas Foss’ for Musicweb. I had implied
that this was the one and only recording
of the (nearly) complete oeuvres for
piano. Recently I received an email
from Daniel Beliavsky pointing out to
me that he had produced a CD with identical
repertoire timed to celebrate the composer’s
eightieth birthday. It hit the streets
two years before the Naxos version.
And he was gracious enough to send me
a copy to review!
Now for the excuses!
I use the Arkiv CD webpage as a reference
database to see what is recorded. And
this database does not mention Daniel’s
offering. I confess that if I had investigated
further I would have come across a number
of net references to this CD. However
I did not feel that it was necessary
at that time to fully research the subject.
Now the first thing
to say about this CD is that it does
not actually give the ‘complete’ piano
works of the eminent Lukas Foss. The
early ‘Sonatina’ and a Tango
are not recorded. However this is a
complaint I have already made concerning
the Naxos disc. I believe that, unless
it is expressly against the composer’s
wishes, early ‘horrors’ ought to be
included in so called ‘complete’ cycles.
Besides, it would have filled out both
CDs to something over the hour.
It is not necessary
to consider the historical background
to the various works on this disc. I
explored this aspect in my previous
review. However the key to the present
performances is the close working relationship
between the composer and the recitalist.
One of the first things
I noticed is the respective timings
of the various works. I do not have
access to the scores so I cannot check
the dynamics and metronome markings.
However in general Beliavsky takes these
works at a faster pace than Scott Dunn.
I asked Beliavsky about
these temporal variations and he assured
me that he had worked through each piece
with Lukas Foss and as far has he knew
had fairly represented the composer’s
preferred interpretations. Apparently
Foss felt that a faster tempo ‘was necessary
to promote and clarify the thought-line
as well as the architectural proportions
of the music.’
Beliavsky further suggested
to me that he tried to be sympathetic
to the metronomic values indicated in
the piano score. However some of these
were ‘horrendously difficult to follow.’
The presentation of
this CD is certainly attractive. The
playing is assured and always expressive.
The contrast between the minimalist
elements of Solo and the sheer
lyricism of the Prelude in D
are well made. The sound is well balanced
and always clear.
The pianist has contributed
a short but fascinating essay which
is required reading for all who would
understand Foss’s piano music.
Until this CD dropped
onto my doorstep I had not heard of
Daniel Beliavsky, so a few words about
his career may not be out of place.
He began his professional
career at fifteen years of age with
a performance of the Tchaikovsky First
Piano Concerto. This was 1993.
Since that time he
has played extensively in both concerted
works and as a recitalist. He has travelled
in both the United States and Europe.
Although he was trained in the romantic
and classical schools of piano literature
he has developed a considerable sympathy
for 20th century music.
He has recently recorded
music by Bach, Schubert, Chopin, Scarlatti
I will attempt to sum
up. Foss aficionados will require both
the Scott Dunn and the Daniel
Beliavsky versions. The Beliavsky edition
has the benefit of presenting the works
in strict chronological order. The Dunn
account has a slightly warmer tone to
the recording. The Beliavsky disc has
a fascinating interview between composer
and his interpreter. The Naxos recording
has more detailed programme notes; however
Beliavsky provides a personal essay.
And as for the timings – well it depends
whether we want a rather laid-back interpretation
or a slightly more frenetic approach.
And it then comes down to whether we
believe that the composer is always
right about the interpretation of his
If push comes to shove
I would probably recommend the present
CD – however having listened to these
piano works a number of times I am probably
dropping into the aficionado bracket
and require both recordings.
It resolves down to
my late father’s contention that no-one
makes and markets a bad single malt.
It all comes down to preference and
And one last note.
What date was the Passacaglia
composed? Beliavsky suggests 1941 and
Scott Dunn plumps for 1940.
Postscript to the
Lukas Foss Complete Piano Music Reviews
Scott Dunn on Naxos
on Sonata Bop 001
I have had the benefit
of discussions with Daniel Beliavsky
about a few issues I raised on my reviews
of the ‘Complete Piano Music of Lukas
Foss’ by himself and Scott Dunn.
I made a comment there
that this was not the complete ‘works
for piano’ by this composer. I had noticed
in the Foss catalogue that there were
two works mentioned which were not recorded.
The early Sonatina
was probably composed between 1935 and
1938 and was never published. It is
now lost. Apparently Lukas Foss’ house
was destroyed by fire in the 1960s resulting
in the loss of many precious manuscripts
and a number of his wife’s painting.
Foss seems to think that the Sonatina
was amongst those scores lost.
The second piece I
mentioned as being omitted from both
recordings is the Tango. This
is also unpublished, but copies of the
manuscript have survived. However, when
Beliavsky proposed the recording project,
Foss was adamant that the Tango
was not included as a part of it. No
clear reason was given. However the
composer did suggest that as the work
was in fact a transcription of a movement
from the Curriculum Vitae Suite for
Accordion it was not actually part
of the catalogue of pieces composed
And finally, I noted
a discrepancy between dates given for
the composition of the Passacaglia.
Scott Dunn on Naxos had plumped for
1940 whereas Beliavsky on Sonata Bop
had opted for 1941.
Daniel pointed out
that the year he gave for this work
was the date of publication as was his
policy for all the other works recorded.
However in the case of the Fantasy
Rondo, this was composed in 1944
but not published until 1946. Apparently
Lukas Foss does not accurately recall
the dates of actual composition – so
the use of the publication date may
be the best solution. Bearing in mind
the tragic loss of holographs noted
above this is possibly the only means
of dating works open to musicologists.