We expect ingenious programmes from this long running series
and we are never disappointed. This one ranges over the centuries,
alighting on the unexpected, the overlooked, the ignored and
the wholly improbable.
But the programme begins with C.P.E. Bach and indeed it is arranged
intelligently to allow one to appreciate the nature of the music’s
trajectory whilst also, of course, allowing the listener to
assert one’s perfect right to ignore it entirely and instead
focus on one’s own particular area of interest. But when it’s
pointed out that the Bach sonata is played by Marc-André Hamelin,
one might wish to stay for the party, because his perky, droll
playing perfectly matches C.P.E. Bach’s perky and quixotic writing.
The pecky articulation here enlivens things enormously, and
so too does the free fantasia kind of writing that Bach is employing.
The finale is greatly engaging and the droll Haydnesque throwaway
ending a real treat. The audience even goes so far as to titter.
Jean-Frédéric Neuburger plays two of the four Freischütz
Studies of Stephen Heller. There’s a deal of tempestuous
writing here, drama and refined legato too, and the Weberian
ethos transfers perfectly to the purely pianistic medium. There
then follows a significant addition to the repertory by a contemporary
pianist in the shape of Zoltán Kocsis’ transcription of the
Flower Maidens’ Scene and Finale from Parsifal. Textures here
are filled out and Kocsis had added a vocal line toward the
end. It’s a formidable piece of work, and let’s see how many
of his colleagues take it on. One who has is Ian Fountain who
plays it splendidly. Michail Lifits performs Busoni’s Prelude
in E flat minor whilst the composer’s second Elegie, All’Italia!
receives an equally authoritative reading from Giovanni Bellucci.
We find the extensive Variations on a theme of Chopin Op.1
written in 1921 by the 24 year old Jřrgen Bentzon. It’s based
on one of the Mazurkas and is made up of nine variations; plenty
of contrasts, sometimes stark contrasts. It’s a most interesting
piece for an opus 1 — quite complex in places. There’s homage
of sorts from Robert Helps, whose Hommage ŕ Fauré,
from 3 Hommages dates from 1972. It’s delicate and
rather lovely, well worth hearing. I note that the rest of Jenny
Lin’s programme consisted of works by Miaskovsky, Feinberg and
Kaprálová. That’s seriously good programming. Are we ever going
to hear it?
Finally there’s the case of Boris Pasternak. The Boris
Pasternak of Dr. Zhivago fame. His family was cultured
and musical—his mother had been a concert pianist and a student
of Anton Rubinstein and Leschetitzky—and he entered the Moscow
Conservatoire, only to leave in 1910 to study philosophy. When
he was 16 he wrote two charming Preludes, saturated in the influence
of Scriabin whose portrait his father, a famous painter, had
made. Three years later he wrote a Sonata in B minor. Like a
number of Scriabin’s later sonatas it’s in one movement, quite
complex, free, harmonically questing, replete with sepulchral
moments and Rachmaninovian bell tolls. It’s quite impressive.
Next we’ll hear that H.G. Wells wrote a symphony.
As ever given that the pianistic net is cast wide, there should
be something for pianophiles in this latest volume.
see also review by John
Carl Phillip Emanuel BACH
Sonata in E minor Wq 59 No.1 H281 (1784) [6:51]
Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
Stephen HELLER (1813-1888)
4 Freischütz Studies – Nos 1 and 3 Op.127 (1871) [7:48]
Jean-Frédéric Neuburger (piano)
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Flower Maidens’ Scene and Finale from Parsifal – transcribed
by Zoltán Kocsis (b.1952) [14:52]
Ian Fountain (piano)
Ferruccio BUSONI (1866-1924)
Prelude in E flat minor Op.37 No.14 (K.181) [4:18]
Michail Lifits (piano)
6 Elegies K249 – No.2 All’Italia! (1907) [7:22]
Giovanni Bellucci (piano)
Boris PASTERNAK (1890-1960)
2 preludes (1906) [5:49]
Eldar Nebolsin (piano)
Sonata in B minor (1909) [13:45]
Hiroaki Takenouchi (piano)
Jřrgen BENTZON (1897-1951)
Variations on a theme of Chopin Op.1 (1921) [11:23]
Peter Froundjian (piano)
Robert HELPS (1928-2001)
Hommage ŕ Fauré, from 3 Hommages No.1 (1972) [4:20]