Margaret Fingerhut has survived physical problems in recent years – due, it seems, to a malfunctioning automatic nervous system – which at several points led her to face the end of her musical career. She has overcome, and with the help of a distinguished surgeon she is now able to perform and to record.
It would plumb the depths of irony were it possible to note that her performances have suffered but thankfully this is very much not the case. This recording is a vindication of her talents.
Song is the theme and the piece that lends its name to the disc is John Metcalf’s Endless Song
. Metcalf, born in 1946, wrote it in 1999 and its rich folkloric lyricism makes a hugely favourable impression. She chooses two of Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words
allowing them to contrast nicely, with the sway of the Venetian Gondola Song
prefacing the bright-toned, open-air Hunting Song.
The Schubert-Liszt Ave Maria
transcription is thoughtfully and affectionately played, Schumann’s Widmung
, again in Liszt’s arrangement, attesting to the clever programming concepts – contrasts, doubles, hyphenated Liszt and the like – as is Chopin’s The Maiden’s Wish
which is the last of the trio of Liszt transcriptions.
She plays Píseň lásky
, or the Love Song, by Josef Suk, one of his most popular piano pieces, though hardly anyone performs it in concert or much records it these days – oddly, the violin and piano version is just as popular. Fingerhut plays it passionately building up to the climax beautifully. It’s a better performance than Kvapil’s old standby, though Moravec is in a special class, and significantly slower. Fingerhut really does play this with great attention to tone and detail, with marvellous results. The poignant chanson that Poulenc wrote in homage to Edith Piaf also casts its spell in this reading.
She plays six pieces from George Gershwin’s Song Book and has chosen wisely, not sticking to a chronological sequencing but programming for maximum effectiveness. Albéniz’s reflective Córdoba contrasts with the terpsichorean Seguidillas rather as did the two Mendelssohn songs. Two pieces by Carlos Guastavino elaborate on this kind of theme, leading on naturally from Albéniz. They’re captivatingly lively, not least the folk dance Bailecito, composed in 1940. The recital ends with the Mélodie and Vocalise of Rachmaninov, the latter in the arrangement by Alan Richardson who evokes – and Fingerhut brings out - rich colours in the central passages.
With attractive sound quality in Potton Hall, this encore disc can be warmly welcomed, and more Fingerhut on disc anticipated with pleasure and admiration.
Previous review: Paul Corfield Godfrey