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Sessions - Joel Hastings
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Oriental Sketch (1917) [1:55]
Lilacs (1914 piano transcription of song Op. 21/5)
Lullaby (Transcription of Tchaikovsky's song ‘Lullaby’)
Étude-Tableau No. 1 in C minor, Op.39 No.1 (1916)
Prelude No. 12 in G-sharp minor, Op.32 No.12 (1910)
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Ten Pieces for Piano, Op.12 (1906-1913)
March [1:39]; Gavotte [2:21]; Rigaudon [1:23]; Mazurka [1:24]; Capriccio [2:54]; Legend [2:49]; Prelude [2:11]; Allemande [2:37]; Scherzo
Humoristique [2:08]; Scherzo [2:48]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-47)
Variations Sérieuses in D minor, Op.54 (1841) [11:22]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Sonata No.9, Op.68 ‘Black Mass’ (1912-13)
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Totentanz (arr. Liszt 1860-65) [15:10]
rec. 22-23 May 2001, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Flint,
Michigan, USA. DDD
CLASSICS PR1016 [72:43]
Liszt Transcending - Joel Hastings
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Transcriptions, Paraphrases and Arrangements
Concert Paraphrase of Rigoletto by Verdi (arr. Liszt
Widmung by Schumann (arr. Liszt 1848) [3:34]
Das Wandern by Schubert (arr. Liszt 1846) [2:05]
Der Müller und der Bach by Schubert (arr. Liszt 1846)
Auf Flügeln des Gesanges by Mendelssohn (arr. Liszt
Reminiscences of Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti (arr. Liszt 1835-36)
Isolde's Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde by Wagner (arr.
Liszt 1867) [7:27]
Die Forelle by Schubert (arr. Liszt 1846) [3:31]
Ständchen by Schubert (arr. Liszt 1838-39) [5:34]
Erlkönig by Schubert (arr. Liszt 1838) [4:39]
Sarabande and Chaconne from Almira, Concert Arrangement
by Handel (arr. Liszt 1879) [13:56]
Melodie from Orfeo ed Euridice (Gluck) (transcribed by Giovanni
Joel Hastings (piano)
rec. live, 19 August 2005, First Baptist Church of Ann Arbor,
Michigan, USA. DDD
It is a misnomer to think that the top record
labels have the monopoly on the most talented performers.
Only a few days ago I attended two recitals given by the
Lithuanian-born and Paris-based pianist Mûza Rubackyté and
was hugely impressed her talents. Another name that
springs to mind is Grigory Sokolov who is the most magnificent
pianist yet manages
to escape the marketing hysteria generated by the giant record
labels. Now on these two
review discs I am captivated by the superb playing of Canadian
pianist Joel Hastings; who is a name new to me. His command
of dynamics and characterful performances make him worthy
of considerable attention.
Born in Ontario in 1969 Joel Hastings was the winner of the International
Bach Competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.,
placed second in the Chicago Chopin Competition and won first
prize at the Royal Canadian College of Organists National
Competition. In 2006 he was the winner of the 8th International
Web Concert Hall Competition, at Rockville, MD.
The first disc is Joel Hastings’s impressive debut CD, titled Sessions recorded
in 2001. The sound quality is clear
and well balanced. I found the documentation interesting,
reasonably informative; although not without error.
In the Rachmaninov scores I experienced the impressive Oriental
Sketch briskly played and the rocking and colourful Lilacs at
times evocative of an impressionist tone painting. With
the Lullaby Hastings resists the temptation to over-sentimentalise;
using a calm and gentle approach. The Étude-Tableau No. 1 in C minor is played
with drama and vivacity, with episodes of strong passion.
The appealing Prelude No. 12 in G-sharp minor contains
sturdy dramatic contrasts.
Prokofiev’s Ten Pieces for Piano, Op.12 make delightful listening
with Hastings very much at home here. In particular, I enjoyed
his lively and powerful interpretation of the March; the restlessly scurrying Rigaudon; the mystery of
the rhythmic Capriccio and the frenetic and energetic
playing of the Scherzo Humoristique.
Mendelssohn’s Variations Sérieuses in D minor,
Op. 54 is an agreeable score that seems to fall into
six contrasting sections. I loved the gently restful section
at 4:38-5:57; the sacred reverential quality at 7:05-8:48
and the vigorously dynamic playing in the final section that
gently and rapidly dies away at 8:49-11:24. In Scriabin’s
notorious Sonata No.9, Op. 68, known as the ‘Black
Mass’, the soloist conveys a
convincingly sinister atmosphere of dark foreboding, generating
considerable tension with a quite magnificent concluding
The final score on the disc is Liszt’s Totentanz,
that he arranged in 1860-65 from
his mighty Totentanz (Dance of death) Paraphrase
on the ‘Dies irae’ for piano and orchestra, a
work he originally composed in 1849 and subsequently revised.
Evidently Liszt had been inspired by the magnificent frescoes
titled ‘The Triumph of Death’ on the wall of the basilica
in the Campo Santo at Pisa. I especially enjoyed the way
the Canadian provides a convincingly uneasy and searching
quality to the martial section at 1:24-3:54; his dreamy playing
of the carefree episode at 5:01-6:34 and the dramatically
robust conclusion at 13:20-15:09.
The second disc from Joel Hastings, titled Liszt Transcending,
is a superbly performed all-Liszt collection of twelve transcriptions,
paraphrases and arrangements of works by eight composers.
Recorded live, the well balanced
disc contains some minor noise on four of the tracks but
nothing too obtrusive and audience applause is included at
the end of track 11. I found the liner notes interesting
to read, providing much essential information.
The opening score is the Concert Paraphrase on Rigoletto where
Joel Hastings gradually and expertly builds up intensity
and weight. At 4:38 I found the power and drama that he generates
especially impressive. The Canadian soloist in the arrangement
of Schumann’s Widmung provides considerable refinement
and the five Schubert scores Das Wandern, Der Müller
und der Bach, Die Forelle, Ständchen and Erlkönig are
joyously interpreted with delicacy and good humour.
The appealing arrangements of Auf Flügeln des Gesanges by Mendelssohn
is given a performance of tenderness with an impressive lightness of touch
and the arrangement of Reminiscences of Lucia di Lammermoor effectively
contrasts strength and vitality with tenderness. I love the way he accelerates
the tempo superbly and seamlessly from 5:16-6:07. Liszt’s arrangement of
Wagner’s mighty Isolde's Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde is
powerfully performed with an abundance of high drama.
The arrangement of the Sarabande and Chaconne from
Handel’s Almira is
robust and lyrical played in a highly Romantic style and
in the final score on the disc, Giovanni Sgambati’s transcription
of the Melodie from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, the
soloist provides an unhurried reading of compelling tranquillity.
This is high calibre playing from Joel Hastings a pianist who is worthy
of considerable attention. These two releases deserve a place
in any collection of instrumental music.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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