Michal Tal - Great Short Masterpieces for Piano
CD 1
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Impromptus D.935 (1827)
Allegro Moderato [11:27]
Allegretto [9:42]
Theme and variations [11:55]
Allegro scherzando [6:52]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Six Preludes (from Book 1) (1910)
Voiles [4:02]
" Les sons et les parfums tourment dans l'air du soir" [3:36]
Les collines d'Anacapri [3:15]
La fille aux cheveux de lin [2:36]
La danse de Puck [2:56]
Minstrels [2:55]
Six Préludes (from Book 2) (1913)
Feuilles mortes [3:02]
La puerta del Vino [3:26]
" Les fees sont d'exquises danseuses" [3:30]
" General Lavine" eccentric [2:52]
Hommage à S. Pickwick Esq. [2:26]
Feux d'artifice [5:02]
CD 2
Erik SATIE (1866-1925)
Petite Ouverture à danser [1:46]
Croquis et Agaceries d'un Gros Bonhomme en Bois (1913)
Tyrolienne Turque [1:40]
Danse Maigre [1:41]
Españaña [1:41]
Trois Nocturnes (1919) [8:13]
Descriptions Automatiques
Sur un Vaisseau [1:52]
Sur une Lanterne [2:06]
Surun Casque [1:14]
Embryons Desséchés
d'Holoturie [2:09]
d'Edriophthalma [2:07]
de Podophthalma [1:43]
Pièces Froides [6:37]
Le picadilly, Je te veux [8:02]
Rag-Time Parade [1:44]
Luciano BERIO (1925-2003)
Sequenza IV for piano (1966) [12:51]
Six encores pour piano
brin (1990) [2:48]
leaf (1990) [1:48]
wasserklavier (1965) [2:15]
erdenklavier (1969) [1:14]
luftklavier (l985) [4:18]
feuerklavier (1989) [4:22]
Michal Tal (piano)
rec. no details given
ROMÉO RECORDS 7278/79 [78:18 + 72:45]

Programming a recital ‘from Schubert to Berio via Debussy and Satie’ is another way of describing Great Short Masterpieces for Piano which is the putative title of this disc. It argues for a venturesome musician, one prepared to cover a wide range of stylistic imperatives and sound-worlds, and one with the confidence to present the result in a two disc set. Whether everything is to one’s own personal taste is a different matter, but the laying out of such wares is rare enough to be noted.

To this extent though, the recital is unbalanced. The Schubert Impromptus tend to be rather too heavy and lacking in playfulness and intimacy. Turn from Tal to Curzon, say, in the Allegretto and we find a wholly different set of imperatives, a more inflected but playfully suggestive set of colours and rhythms. The Debussy Preludes, are uneven. I’ve been listening again to Mindru Katz’s performance of some of the Preludes - principally from Book 1, on Cembal d’amour - and the contrast with his eddying, clarity-conscious performances is stark. The playing here is rather lateral and again undernourished.

Things improve in all respects for Satie in disc two. The charming patina and warmth of the Petite Ouverture à danser is well realised, and the tricky rhythmic motors of Danse Maigre from Croquis et Agaceries are similarly finely traversed. The pawky Españaña elicits applause from a compact-sounding audience - when will they learn though that clapping twice as quickly doesn’t translate as twice as loudly. These Satie pieces are playful and engaging, and Tal’s playing of them is too. The cocksure strut of Sur un Casque is appealing, and the naughtily histrionic chords that end d'Holoturie from Embryons Desséchés reflect Tal’s sure judgement of the drollery of the writing - so too the ridiculous fake endings of de Podophthalma which encourages our fast clapper again. The vaudevillian aspects of the music are adeptly portrayed.

From Satie to Berio is a step and a half. But she has the co-ordinates for this music as well. Sequenza IV features some luminous dynamic shading and also some abrasive, contrary combativeness. The languid stasis of the first of his encores, brin is notably successful, as is the ghostly romanticism of erdenklavier and the percussive suggestibility of luftklavier.

The recorded sound however is problematic. There’s a persistent hum at not too high a level, which makes listening unattractive, in all but the Schubert. Is there something wrong with my copy? I have to assume not. My Gordian Knot suggestion is to reissue the Satie-Berio disc separately and to do remedial work on the hum.

Jonathan Woolf