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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Arabesque in C major Op.18 (1838) [7:39]
Piano Sonata in G minor Op.22 (1833-38)  [19:47]
Widmung as ‘Liebeslied’ (arr. by Liszt) [4:00]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Transcendental Etudes – No.11; Harmonies du soir S.139 (1852) [10:10]
St Francis of Assisi preaching to the Birds - Two Legéndes S175 (1863) [10:04]
Ballade No. 2 in B S171, R16 (1853) [16:54]
Mordecai Shehori (piano)
No recording details
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD135 [68:37]
Experience Classicsonline

Mordecai Shehori’s recitals invariably offer examples of a superior pianism and articulate musicianship rarely found. This one is no exception. It conjoins Schumann and Liszt to form a recital of embracing strength and sentiment, far-reaching in technical prowess and deep in expressive control.
It opens with Schumann’s Arabesque. I remember reading a review of Shehori that implied that he had rabble-rousing tendencies but all my experiences of listening to his recordings have proved – on the contrary – that his virtuosity is entirely at the service of the music, and comes from within, and is not imposed from without. Anyone who thinks him rabble rousing is welcome to give an audition to this unusually intimate, sensitive and subtle performance of the Arabesque in which rubati are perfectly judged, the music making is flexible but has spine, and in which Shehori locates – in one spine tingling moment - a caesura of regretful stasis. Memorable.
Widmung is heard in its Lisztian garb and marks a warmly textured introduction to the Second Sonata, still not as often performed as it might or should be. Levitzki was one of the discographic pioneers of the work back in 1933 and he predictably takes a rather more linear and acerbic approach to it. Shehori’s playing however is warmly reflective, and graced by his singing, finely calibrated tone and textual and chordal balance. One feels that everything has been judged, weighed and absorbed – nothing mechanical or unspontaneous emerges; on the contrary it’s a vibrantly alive performance. He plays the original finale with skittish direction and total assurance.
When it comes to Liszt’s Harmonies du soir we encounter a relatively measured tempo, and a performance in the grand manner though one that does not take liberties. Well characterised, without doubt, it builds to a splendidly established climax. There are great reserves of weight and tone here but never flouted or wasted and Shehori is careful not to pummel or drive through his tone. Structural integrity is always maintained.
St Francis of Assisi preaching to the Birds, from Two Legéndes, is similarly accomplished and here the evocative eloquence of his approach is married with control of dynamics to great effect. The Ballade No. 2 shows how Shehori establishes rather different priorities from other pianists. He is less daemonic then, say, Horowitz or Kentner – and he tends to use far less pedal than the latter – but he establishes and maintains an indomitable dynamism of his own, entirely divorced from gestural playing.
There is no indication as to locations and recording dates on this disc so I’m not sure if they all derive from the usual sources in New York. One or two do seem a touch boxy but certainly not enough to impair appreciation of yet another formidable disc from Shehori. Why isn’t this man an internationally known soloist?
Jonathan Woolf


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