According to the notes the rationale for this Golden Age confection
is the Waltz, though not everything here qualifies as such.
Rather than see it as a study in Viennese politesse leading
to Ravelian subversion in one giant arc perhaps it’s better
to consider the nature of the pianism. The Spanish pianist Miguel
Baselga is certainly not afraid to subject his playing to the
scrutiny of those with long memories in respect of pianistic
titans, nor indeed is he afraid to commit his own arrangement
of La Valse to the record. It makes for somewhat exhausting
listening, though a recital without much intellectual gruel
is not in itself especially damning.
The Musical Snuff
Box is not often opened in our more ascetic times. Times
were when Godowsky, Sapellnikoff, Rosenthal and their aristocratic
peers would lace their recitals with it – and fortunately this
elevated trio committed their performances to record (Godowsky
complete with mechanical wind-up noises, no less). In comparison
the newcomer is inclined to be a touch rigid – he doesn’t espouse
their rubati – but of more concern is the piano’s action, which
is almost as noisy as the box itself. The Schulz-Evler – I’m
not sure why the notes divide him as if there were two of him
– is the full version, that is not the cut-down version familiar
from, say, Lhevinne’s performance on disc. Adherents of more
recent masters such as Bolet, Cherkassky, Wild and Janis will
admire this performance but not be shifting allegiances; the
rhythms could be punched out a touch more, though the technical
resources displayed are formidable.
I can’t find many
other recordings of Friedman’s arrangement of Frühlingsstimmen
around at the moment – certainly none domestically (UK) – so
this is a valuable contribution and combustibly if a touch heavily
played. I enjoyed the oft-essayed Schubert-Liszt – Baselga reminds
me more of De Greef in No.6 than Petri – rather more equable
than blistering. The Ravel transcription is his own and not
the Muraro as one might have expected if he were to essay something
unusual. The playing is powerful and confidently assertive.
The recording quality is good without being
outstanding; it certainly catches the piano action all too well.
The notes are skimpy.