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CD: Margaret Wacyk

Margaret Wacyk - Journey of the Soul
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Organ Prelude and Fugue in A minor BWV 543 (transc. Liszt) [10:27]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Arabesque Op.18 (1838) [7:23]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Sonata in E flat major Les Adieux Op.81a (1809-10) [19:52]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Polonaise in E minor Op.26 No.2 (1834-35) [8:01]
Ballade in F minor Op.52 (1842) [12:31]
Margaret Wacyk (piano)
rec. January 2008
Experience Classicsonline

Pianist Margaret Wacyk has studied widely - completing her studies at Juilliard - and also composes. She made her NYC concert debut in Carnegie Recital Hall in 2000 and has released two records on Roméo. This then is her third solo disc and it enshrines the idea of a ‘journey’ - a loose concept that allows her to take in some canonic repertoire and get to grips with it.

The most startling performance is that of Les Adieux about which she clearly feels deeply and over which she has equally obviously pondered with considered attention. She has emerged with a performance that, obviously, hardly seeks to emulate Gouldian guerrilla attacks but that proposes its own highly dogmatic solution. It is, I think, amongst the slowest traversals I’ve heard of the sonata. I am not sure whether the attempt is to inflate it but its deliberation and retardation are worlds away from the sparing lightness of Kempff or of a contemporary such as Craig Sheppard whose directional surety is cut from a different cloth. There’s a rather obvious edit at 3:09 in the second movement but more concerning is the sense that the sonata never takes wing; the finale has a heavy action and hardly enshrines anything corresponding to the Presstissimo instruction. It’s certainly an uncompromising view, maintained throughout, and seen from beginning to end with unwavering confidence in the didacticism of its conception.

I have similar reservations concerning the two Chopin pieces. There’s a lack of continuity and narrative drive in the F minor Ballade. It lacks a sense of, for want of a better word, smoothness and I think also lacks a sense of conception; there’s a certain lumpiness to it. There sounds like another edit at 2:23 in Schumann’s Toccata which disrupts things rhythmically for a brief moment; otherwise it stands at a slightly unconvincing tangent to the music. The Bach-Liszt Organ Prelude and Fugue actually opens the programme in sonorous grandeur. Here we have a sense of grandeur and dynamism as well as a refined approach to dynamics and tonal colour that shows what this pianist is capable of. The refined voicing of the Fugue is impressive indeed and her powerful bass - a bit too much so in truth for the recording to cope with - registers with patrician authority. By far the most impressive performance this is the kind of thing one should look forward to in her next recording. A disc that satellites around Bach-Liszt, Bach-Busoni and, say, Bach-Siloti, might seem all too run of the mill these days, but I think Wacyk could do justice to it and I hope it’s suggested to her.

Jonathan Woolf


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