Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Études, L143 (1915) [46:43]
Pour les 'cinq doigts' (d'après Monsieur Czerny) [3:16]
Pour les tierces [3:42]
Pour les quartes [4:46]
Pour les sixtes [4:14]
Pour les octaves [2:49]
Pour les huit doigts [1:57]
Pour les degrés chromatiques [2:18]
Pour les agreements [5:27]
Pour les notes répétées [3:16]
Pour les sonorités opposées [4:47]
Pour les arpèges composés [4:12]
Pour les accords [5:59]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Études, Op 2 (1909) [12:03]
No. 1 in D minor: Allegro [2:52]
No. 2 in E minor: Moderato [3:00]
No. 3 in C minor: Andante semplice [4:01]
No. 4 in C minor: Presto energico [2:10]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Études, Op. 18 (1918) [7:49]
Allegro molto [2:17]
Andante sostenuto [3:10]
Garrick Ohlsson (piano)
rec. December 2013, Henry Wood Hall, London, UK
Reviewed as a 24/96 download
Pdf booklet included
HYPERION CDA68080 [66:35]
Honestly, Garrick Ohlsson and Hyperion were made for each other; I’ve already reviewed their Griffes – one of my Recordings of the Year 2013 – Granados and Scriabin, all of which impressed me enormously. I’ve dubbed Ohlsson a ‘pianistic prestidigitator’, but he’s not the only magician here; time and again Hyperion have conjured up some of the best piano sounds imaginable. Philip Martin’s Gottschalk, Marc-André Hamelin’s Rzewski and, most recently, Stephen Hough’s Grieg spring readily to mind. With that sort of pedigree this new album is bound to be a winner.
Appropriately enough for studies designed for ‘remarkable hands’
Debussy’s delectable dozen kicks off with five-finger exercises
after Czerny. Surely those of us who tried to master the piano at an
early age will remember pecking out those scales – tongue protruding,
perhaps – but what follows would have required a great deal more
talent. These are not dry-as-dust performances, for wit and whimsy are
part of Ohlsson's repertoire as well.
Whether focusing on thirds, fourths, sixths or octaves he blends crystalline
textures with the kind of rhythmic fluidity that lifts and animates
this music at every turn. Factor in fearless dynamics and a marvellous
feel for Debussy’s musical shapes and you would be forgiven for
thinking you’d died and gone to heaven. I really can’t imagine
a more complete and compelling traversal of these pieces than this.
Each has its own character – skittish or mock-serious, rollicking
or reflective – and all are explored in full and vivid detail.
Pour les sixtes is a particular delight; its dark ruminations
in the left hand and bright rhapsodising in the right do indeed seem
to convey the world in miniature.
Not only that, Ohlsson has a flair for the dramatic – what attention-getting
octaves – yet he steadfastly refuses to overplay his hand. The
splendid recording is just as well-behaved, effortlessly embracing Debussy’s
stormy chords and sunlit arpeggios. As for the repeated notes of No.
9 they always put me in mind of Gottschalk’s touch-fest Tremolo;
indeed, I’d love to hear Ohlsson play some of the Creole Chopin’s
more extrovert pieces. Moving on, I simply can’t recall a more
complex mix of shades in No. 10. The wonderfully tactile recording –
timbres are so true – really comes into its own here and in the
restless perambulations of No. 12.
How do you follow that? With Prokofiev’s nose-thumbing
Études, of course. Remarkably for such an early opus these
four studies demonstrate the composer’s ability to juxtapose the
laconic and the lyrical; the pounding figures of the Allegro
are supplanted by a seamless – if searching – Moderato.
Ohlsson rejoices in the angularity and drive of the anything-but-typical
Andante and the frankly seditious dissonances of the Presto.
Goodness, what scorching statements from one so young, and how perfectly
Ohlsson articulates them all.
And just when you think your jaw couldn’t drop any further Ohlsson
dashes off Bartók’s Op. 18 with all the clarity and passion these
pieces deserve. This isn’t the kind of subversive talent one recognises
in Prokofiev, say, but it certainly marks out the Hungarian as a bold
and uncompromising musical presence. That’s just the way Ohlsson
sees this music; no quarter asked for, none given. Throw in Roger Nichols’
highly readable liner-notes and a super-slick download process and you
have a piano album to die for.
Dazzling pianism, class-leading sound; another notch on Ohlsson’s bed post.