familiar, great music is always a wonderful affair. Whether through
a stunning performance of a war
horse or, perhaps an orchestration or reduction
of a familiar work. Liszt’s piano versions
of the Beethoven symphonies are one, another is Schoenberg’s way with Brahms’s
Piano Quartet, and Reger’s own organ sonata can’t
be scoffed at, either.
Brahms is also involved in this ‘rediscovery’ of a work. If his
F minor Sonata for two pianos sounds familiar, it’s probably because
you know it in its later incarnation, the Piano Quintet op.34.
The liner-notes of the ARTS Music release with Begoña Uriarte
and husband Karl-Hermann Mrongovius make it seem as though this
sonata was part of his general trend to transcribe all his works
for piano/four hands or two pianos. But this sonata is not a derivative
from the famous Quintet, it is its predecessor and second version
after he had not been satisfied with his first attempt of turning
the material into a String Quintet. There are ways in which this
music is eminently suited for two pianos. Far from being a mere
study for the later, more famous work, or a slimmed-down version
of it, it stands on its own solid legs - six, I suppose. It is
not so much a ‘curiosita’ to have in one’s collection,
but a legitimate sonata next to the truly great 20
finger works of Schubert.
played with the Pekinel Sisters (Warner) or Matthies-Köhn (Naxos),
or Argerich/Rabinovich (Teldec), or Bronfman/Ax (Sony), it is
always good to hear. What sets the Duo Uriarte-Mrongovius version
apart from the competition is their inclusion of Schumann’s Piano
Quintet E-flat major, op.44 in the two-piano version. This is
not to be mistaken for the Brahms transcription of the E-flat
major Piano Quartet, op.47. For one we do not know the
source of the transcription – although it was very likely Brahms,
too. This, too, works well enough in its - not so - new guise,
though I feel it offers fewer insights or novel perspectives into
the original as the sonata allows into its final form. It seems
scarcely enough reason to for which to seek out this disc.
would be, as it were, the only reason to think about acquiring
this disc. Not because the piano duo does not perform ably, evenly,
flawlessly. They do all that – and occasionally with emotion,
too. But the squeaking of what must be a wheel - or more - of
one of the grand pianos is caught on tape throughout the recording.
You would have to have a very mediocre stereo system to miss this
over speakers – and via headphones it makes this disc nothing
short of unlistenable. How this could have escaped sound engineers
Jesús Garrido and Eduardo Pérez de Mora or editor Raffaele Fiorillo
is beyond me – but they have essentially produced a recording
that was "dead on arrival" (DOA).
Jens F. Laurson