The Celebrated New York Concerts - Volume 5
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Invitation to the Dance in D flat major Op.65 J260 (1819) [8:51]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
32 Variations on an Original Themes in C minor Wo080 (1806) [10:52]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Impromptus in E flat major D899 (1828) [4:06] and G flat major [5:20]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano Sonata No.2 in B flat minor Op.35 (1839) [25:37]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Frühlingsnacht (arr. Franz LISZT (1811-1886)) [3:13]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Spanish Rhapsody (Folies d’Espagne et Jota aragonesa) (1867) [12:53]
Mordecai Shehori (piano)
rec. 1 June 1976, live, Carnegie Recital Hall, NYC, except 15 May 1984, live, Merkin Concert Hall (Weber, Liszt Spanish Rhapsody)
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD158 [70:57]

Mordecai Shehori’s New York concert series has now reached volume 5 and with it we have largely a single recital given in June 1984 at the Carnegie Recital Hall, NYC. The odd men out are Liszt and that hyphenated titan, Schumann-Liszt, which were taped at a different location eight years later.

The recital as constituted functions well as a disc; at the centre sits the Chopin sonata; and there is virtuoso repertoire via Weber and Liszt and no less so, in its own way, in Beethoven’s Variations. There is Schubertian richness, and Schumannesque charm.

Weber’s Invitation to the Dance summons up the shades of departed master musicians such as Cortot and Moiseiwitsch. Shehori ensures that there is fine gradation of tone, excellent rhythm – buoyant and energising – and rich panoply of colour in his own performance. In his recording in the 1920s Cortot rip-roared his way through it, possibly for reasons of constraint of time on the disc; Moiseiwitsch plays it with princely tone. A contemporary of Shehori’s, such as Garrick Ohlsson in his all-Weber 2 CD set on Hyperion Dryad CDD22076, is much more lateral, preferring a more horizontal, less high calorific approach. My own preference is for Shehori’s view.

The Beethoven variations contain some excellent examples of Shehori’s ear for structure, musical argument, and for the dictates of drama. In terms of micro and macro control of the 32 variations, of balance between hands, of calibrated dynamics, and of preparation for succeeding variations – in itself an art – Shehori proves a commanding musician indeed. His E flat major Schubert Impromptu is certainly mercurial and is very fast in the outer sections; the glittering panache is outstanding but maybe the B section isn’t harnessed as it might be; Lipatti took this very much slower, Schnabel at roughly Shehori’s tempo but he conjoined the music that much more cohesively. There are some intense rubati in the companion G flat major.

Chopin’s B flat minor sonata is alternately fiery and deeply poetic. Its highest peak interpretatively is the Funeral March slow movement which, in Shehori’s hands takes on an almost hallucinatory sense of nostalgia, reverie and dislocation. The refined limpidity and delicacy of articulation manage to turn the central section into a fluorescent panel surrounded by showy pomp. This is graphically narrative playing, enriching and impressively argued. Bravura reigns in Liszt’s Spanish Rhapsody allowing Shehori full rein to his protean sense of drama.

The recordings are fine; good for their time and location.

Jonathan Woolf

Showy pomp, graphically narrative playing, enriching and impressively argued.