Mordecai Shehori plays the Complete Moschelès and Fétis “Methode des Methodes” - 20 Études de Perfectionnement (Etudes for attaining perfection/refinement/sophistication) (1838)
Ignaz MOSCHELÈS (1794-1970)
1. Etude No. 1: “L’Enjoument” in A Major [3:18]     
2. Etude No. 2: “L’Ambition” in G Minor [4:29] 
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
3. Etude No. 1 in F Minor [1:35]                                
4. Etude No. 2 in D-flat Major [1:55]             
5. Etude No. 3 in A-Flat Major [1:55]                  
Sigismond THALBERG (1812-1871)
6. Etude No. 1 in E-flat Major [3:58]               
7. Etude No. 2 in A Minor [2:15]                                
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
8. Etude in F Minor [2:13]                              
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
9. Etude in E Major (Morceau de Salon) [2:25]           
Jakob ROSENHAIN (1813-1894)
10. Etude in D Major [2:24]                              
Theodor DÖHLER (1814-1856)
11. Etude No. 1 in F Major [3:10]                                 
12. Etude No. 2 in B Minor [2:20]                                
Stephen HELLER (1813-1888)
13. Etude in E-flat Major (The Hunt) [3:43]                  
Edouard WOLFF (1816-1880)
14. Etude No. 1 in E-flat Minor [4:33]              
15. Etude No. 2 in C-sharp Minor [3:33]                      
Adolf HENSELT (1814-1889)
16. Etude in G-flat Major (La Gondola) [2:57]             
Julius BENEDICT (1804-1885)
17. Etude in A-flat Major [2:11]           
Amédée MÉREAUX (1802-1874)
18. Etude in C-sharp Minor (Elegia) [6:06]       
Wilhelm TAUBERT (1811-1891)
19. Etude No. 1 in F-sharp Minor [5:56]            
20. Etude No. 2 in F-sharp Major [1:47]
Mordecai Shehori (piano)
rec. April 2010, Las Vegas
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD 152 [62:54]
In 1838 François-Joseph Fétis, and Ignaz Moschelès commissioned twelve leading composer-executants to write one or two etudes each. The result was the ‘Methode des Methodes’ which Mordecai Shehori here presents in its entirety, in full numerical order. The intention was to focus on what each composer believed to be the ‘most vital elements(s) of refined piano playing’ to quote Shehori’s own notes on the subject, to which I am indebted, and the selected musicians represented a roll call of the contemporary great and good; Liszt, Chopin, Mendelssohn being just three but others including Julius Benedict, Sigismond Thalberg, and still others were famous in their day, but are now very much less so – Amédée Méreaux, for instance, whose own contribution Shehori rates as the most profound.
Lest this all be thought mere pianistic antiquarianism, more dutiful reclamation than genuine musical statement, let me assure you that this disc teems with interest and palpable frisson. The concentration on etudes allows one better to appreciate the imperatives and principal fascinations of the composer-pianists of the time and their precepts. Shehori notes some; leading multiple voices coherently, balancing chords, polyrhythmic negotiation, and articulation control, correct use of the pedal and the cultivation of a singing tone.
Fortunately Shehori provides his own commentary on each etude, the better to guide us through their sometimes complex – though often deceptive – raison d’etre. Moschelès himself contributes an etude that promotes the substance of a legato melody, as well as one that calls on the pianist to bind the accompanying figures seamlessly. Chopin went one better than the other contributors by contributing three etudes, the Nouvelles Etudes that one knows so well, though not necessarily the reason for their genesis or ‘nouvelle’ status. Thalberg’s repeated arpeggios are converted by Shehori into a true, musical study, as indeed he does with the Magyarisms of the second. Fluency, fluidity and a true singing line burnish Mendelssohn’s contribution and its performance, whereas Liszt’s contribution is the acme of volatility and technical difficulty. It’s no surprise, perhaps, that Jakob Rosenhain’s etude was programmed next – as noted, they are presented in the original ordering here - since it’s a pertly gentle contribution. Theodor Döhler’s stuttering staccati are built into a richly difficult legato melody statement in his first etude; Shehori manages it triumphantly. He also conceals the wicked difficulties of the second etude with nerveless aplomb.
Similarly he deals with the demands of the Heller and Wolff etudes with similar technical and expressive control, deals warmly with the Henselt, is drolly witty in the first Taubert, and brings rhythmic snap and vitality to the phalanx of repeated chords of the Benedict. He is right regarding the Méreaux, which is not only the most expressive setting but also the longest.
This winning undertaking is resilient, eloquent and commanding both in intent and execution. The recording quality is fine, the notes splendid indeed, and the animating spirit behind the venture wholly laudable.
Jonathan Woolf
This winning undertaking is resilient, eloquent and commanding both in intent and execution.