Alexander GOLDENWEISER(1875-1961) Piano Music, Volume 1: Skazka, Op. 39 (publ. 1961) [7:18];
Sonata-Fantasia, Op. 37 (1957-59?) [12:36]; Contrapuntal Sketches,
Op. 12 (c.1932) [58:30].
Jonathan Powell (piano)
rec. Hurstwood Farm Piano Studios, Kent, 25-26 June 2006. DDD
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC 0044 [78:24]
There is an element of lineage around this recording. The excellent
Jonathan Powell has championed the music of Sorabji so much:
review of his performance of Opus Clavicembalisticum.
Powell is a student of the renowned pedagogue Sulamita Aronovsky,
who herself is a student of Goldenweiser himself. As at the
Sorabji concert, Powell provides his own booklet notes. He writes
beautifully and knowledgeably.
Goldenweiser is best known as a piano teacher at the Moscow
Conservatoire, where he taught for some fifty years. A list
of his pupils includes Lazar Berman, Samuil Feinberg, Grigory
Ginzburg and Tatyana Nikolayeva. Of his own recordings as pianist,
a performance of Scriabin’s Prometheus with Golovanov
perhaps titillates the most - once available on Arlecchino,
and perhaps still available on Boheme.
There was a twenty year gap in Goldenweiser’s compositional
output (after around 1912), but he still left a body of music
that cried out for exploration, at least on the strength of
The Skazka, a form beloved of Medtner, brings forth
from Goldenweiser a lovely sense of simplicity which flowers
nicely into the counterpoint, which even here seems Goldenweiser’s
home territory - as it turns out, it is. The use of a folktune
is very evident around the three minute mark. The Scriabinesque
Sonata-fantaisie, a memorial work to Alexander
Goedicke, is very dark. Yet there is also much tenderness,
very well delivered by Powell. There are some gorgeous textures
here, and somehow the piece just escapes aimless meandering.
The beautiful ending resonates on into the silence that follows.
The Contrapuntal Sketches is a work that proceeds through
the major and minor keys in order (C major/minor followed by
D flat major/C sharp minor and so on); a canon follows every
Prelude and Fugue. There are two books, each of twelve pieces,
and may represent the first Russian cycle in all keys. The first
book, Goldenweiser stated, is pedagogic in nature and therefore
the less demanding of the two, while the second part explodes
any such self-imposed technical constraints - which is not at
all to suggest that simplicity isn’t effectively used in Book
There is a delicious simplicity, indeed, to the D flat Canon
(Book 1, No. 3), while the use of folk material is notable.
This is aurally evident in the melodic shapes of the C sharp
minor Preludes, an Adagio, for example. There are references
to composers as diverse as Bach (inevitably) and Wagner (much
less inevitably). Powell lavishes a huge amount of affection
on these pieces, shaping the simpler pieces from book one with
exquisite care. Perhaps the division of the sets into ‘easy’
and ‘hard’ is way over-simplistic, however. The scurrying lines
of the E minor Prelude (No. 10) are finger-twistingly tough,
and Powell despatches them with the carefree aplomb one would
expect from this pianist. Powell also finds great serenity -
witness the G minor Prelude, a sad pastorale, for example.
The pacing of the Prelude No. 19, seems exemplary, and the perfect
companion to the dreamy counterpoint of the ensuing Fugue (A
minor). Powell allows the music throughout to unravel at its
own perfectly judged pace, perhaps nowhere more so than in the
ruminative Prelude in B flat minor (No. 22).
If there is one criticism, it is that the recording is a little
lacking in depth. It’s not enough to detract from Powell’s magnificent
advocacy of Goldenweiser, though. This is an important disc.
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