Michael Landrum (piano)
rec. 9, 10 and 12 March, 2000, Hale Auditorium, Roberts Wesleyan College, Rochester, New York, USA
Full track list after review
DORIAN SONO LUMINUS DSL-92158 [70:39 + 63:18]
In early 2012 I had the pleasure of reviewing a CD which was a sort of ‘mazurkapedia’: a historical catalog of mazurkas from just before Chopin to the present day (review). Now here comes American pianist Michael Landrum with a similar project, encompassing thirty-two nocturnes by thirty-one composers; Chopin, naturally, appears twice. What’s most fascinating about this double recital is the sources of some of the delights: a four-minute nocturne begins as a charmer with the barest of sweet melodies but builds to a formidable climax, and then you look at the track-listing and discover it was composed by Respighi. A straightforward homage to Chopin comes from Manuel de Falla. One of the finest works in the entire set, a melancholy work introduced by and interwoven with a sequence of repeating notes and chords, is from Sibelius. Mily Balakirev’s enormous second nocturne has a central passage which briefly turns into a triumphal march.
I could go on but you get the idea. Michael Landrum has turned up some very well-chosen gems. The Borodin nocturne is one of my favorite piano pieces; Samuel Barber’s is an ear-catching mixture of John Field’s time with Barber’s own. Landrum’s his ear for good music has led him down back-alleys few know exist. Who, for example is Alec Rowley? The booklet only gives birth and death years, although there is a Piano Concerto on Naxos. Cyril Scott and Francis Poulenc provide unexpected highlights, Scott’s work veering into rather jazzy territory, while I found the Alkan piece a trifle too sugary in the central pages. Ralph Vaughan Williams makes a precious ninety-second appearance.
Michael Landrum is obviously devoted to this repertoire, and to finding more of it, but I can’t help wondering if this disc couldn’t have been even better. It was recorded in 2000, and apparently sat in someone’s vault until Sono Luminus finally decided to release it in 2012. In the dozen intervening years, Landrum’s interpretations probably matured and grew even more engrossing; his Chopin tracks are good but a little square or mechanical compared to someone like Ivan Moravec or Claudio Arrau. On the other hand, his Borodin nocturne is my new reference, and he is not in the least bit exhausted by the humongous Scriabin nocturne for left hand alone. In the least-known works Landrum’s care shows at all times.
This recital adds up to more than the sum of its parts, which is saying something, because it has a lot of parts. There’s something very enlightening about having Balakirev, Copland, Debussy, Menotti, Tchaikovsky and de Falla all on the same program. Although the booklet notes are too technical for me - and do not go through the program in order! - I love hearing the ways that these thirty-one composers all contributed to the world of the nocturne. When you’ve gone through to the end, to the tiny gems by Copland and Alexandre Tansman, circle back to the very first track, by John Field. It’s so simple, and yet so much flowed from it. It’s rare to listen to a piano recital and feel like you’ve learned something new.
Brian Reinhart 
This encyclopedic history of the nocturne adds up to more than the sum of its parts, which is saying something, because it has a lot of parts. It’s rare to listen to a recital and feel that you’ve learned something.
CD 1
John FIELD (1782-1837)
Nocturne No 4 in A[5:21]
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op 27 No 1 [5:24]
Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Nocturne for the left hand, Op 9 [5:56]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Nocturne in A flat, Op 33 No 3 [4:38]
Jean FRANÇAIX (1912-1997)
Nocturne [3:21]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Nocturne in E minor, Op 24 No 8[3:36]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Nocturne in D major [4:02]
Mily BALAKIREV (1837-1910)
Nocturne No 2 in D minor [7:58]
Charles-Valentin ALKAN (1831-1888)
Premier Nocturne Op 22 [6:09]
Erik SATIE (1866-1925)
Premier Nocturne[2:49]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Nocturne No 1 in C [3:32]
Cyril SCOTT (1879-1970)
Notturno Op 54 No 5 [3:20]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Notturno Op 54 No 4 [4:11]
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Nocturne in A minor, Op 10 No 1 [4:46]
Alexandre TANSMAN (1897-1986)
Nocturne, from Cinq Impressions [1:18]
CD 2
Frédéric CHOPIN
Nocturne in B-flat minor, Op 9 No 1[5:49]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Nocturne in D-flat major[6:28]
Clara SCHUMANN (1819-1896)
Notturno Op 6 No 2 [5:21]
Alec ROWLEY (1892-1958)
Nocturne No 5 in F[3:21]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Nocturne in F minor [3:58]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Nocturne No 3 in A flat, S. 541 [4:40]
Samuel BARBER (1910-1981)
Nocturne, Op 33 [3:27]
Alexander TCHEREPNIN (1899-1977)
Nocturne in G-sharp minor, Op 2 No 1[4:06]
Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op 19 No 4 [3:19]
Norman DELLO JOIO (1913-2008)
Nocturne in E [3:02]
Alexander BORODIN (1833-1887)
Nocturne from Petite Suite [2:55]
Charles Tomlinson GRIFFES (1884-1920)
Notturno in A-flat, Op 6 No 2[6:57]
Fanny MENDELSSOHN-HENSEL (1805-1847)
Notturno in G minor [5:00]
Gian-Carlo MENOTTI (1911-2007)
Notturno from Poemetti [1:39]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Nocturne, from A Little Piano Book [1:31]
Aaron COPLAND (1900-1990)
Midsummer Nocturne [1:50] 

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