This is the second volume in a series documenting pianist Mordecai
Shehori's recordings of Beethoven. I had assumed that it would be devoted to
the piano sonatas, but this release spins a surprise by including a live
performance of the Emperor
Concerto, alongside two sonatas.
These performances also chart the years. The earliest is the Concerto,
given in 1992, and four years later Shehori recorded Les Adieux
New York. The most recent is Op.109 taped in the recording studio in Las
Vegas in January 2014.
From the beginning, with its personalised approach to rhythms and voice
leading, its stops and starts, this is a very idiosyncratic performance of
Op.109. There is a sense that Shehori is promoting cussedness,
disorientation, and even maverick turns of phrase, unwilling to let anything
be taken for granted, phrasally or timbrally, far less notions of the
beautifying of the sonata. For those brought up on the recordings of
Neuhaus, Backhaus, Schnabel, Solomon or Annie Fischer, Shehori's recording
occupies a wholly alien world - halting, dogged, full of italicised rubati.
Moments of lumpiness co-exist with flattening of contrasts, lacking sweep
and drive. The finale is as problematic as the other two movements, indeed
more so, and I found listening to the performance an increasingly
has a muted sense of expressive engagement, though it
offers more opportunities for Shehori's sense of rhythmic acuity to emerge.
Despite the rather non-committal nature of his phrasing, a caution that
begins in the opening Adagio
section (separately tracked) and
continues in the Andante espressivo
, he is more mainstream in his
approach, though there is a fidgety quality to his Beethoven playing, a lack
of straightforwardness, and a lack of tonal depth.
Concerto was recorded live in concert in Manchester,
New Hampshire in October 1992. The New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra is
conducted by James Bolle. A note in the jewel case advises listeners that
whilst the recordings 'will sound fine on speakers' for the best definition,
listening through high quality headphones is the best way to go. I listened
via speakers and then via not-very high quality headphones. I take the
point, however. The orchestra is rather understaffed and thus lacks heft in
tuttis and it can't be said it has much sheen, but Bolle follows Shehori
well enough. The pianist alternates between aggressive drive and metrical
passagework. He launches violently into the cadenza and plays passages in
the slow movement with almost rococo limpidity. His pulse is very free
throughout, dynamics extreme, caesuri theatrical, and his final dramatic
flourish in the finale unconvincing.
This is a disappointing release.
Masterwork Index: Concerto 5