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Rarities of Piano Music at Schloss vor Husum 2014 Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Fantasia, op. 77 (1809) [9:16]
Joseph Moog (piano) Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Das Sterbeglöcklein (1827, (arr. Liszt, 1846) [6:34]
Luiza Borac (piano) Pierre J. ZIMMERMAN (1785-1853)
Variations sur une Romance favorite de Blangini, op. 7 (1817) [8:49] Élie Miriam DELABORDE (1839-1913)
Étude d'après une petite Valse de V. Dolmetsch (1889) [3:33]
Vincenzo Maltempo (piano) Wim Statius MULLER (b.1930)
Nostalgia-Waltz, op.2 no. 22 [1:49] Ernest WALKER (1870-1949)
Study for the left hand alone, op. 47 (1931) [5:07]
Hiroaki Takenouchi (piano) Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Fragment (1920) [2:03]
Piano-Rag-Music (1919) [3:13] Stefan WOLPE (1902-72)
Rag-Caprice (1927) [1:04]
Andrew Zolinsky (piano) Nicolai MEDTNER (1880-1951)
Primavera, op. 39 no. 3 (1923) [3:08]
Mark Viner (piano) Felix GUERRERO (1917-2001)
Suite havanaise [13:57] Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
The broken little music-box (1931) [3:08] Ernesto LECUONA (1896-1963)
Siempre esta en mi Corazon [2:24]
Mazurka glissando [1:31]
Jorge Luis Prats (piano)
rec. 2014, Husum Festival, Husum, Germany DANACORD DACOCD749 [67:46]
The CD opens with Joseph Moog’s stunning performance
of Beethoven’s Fantasia, op. 77 which was composed around 1809.
The liner-notes suggest that this is a ‘little-known work which
is hardly ever played.’ Whilst I accept its relative unpopularity
(there are only 21 recordings of this piece listed on Arkiv, as opposed
to 262 for the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata) I do not feel that it
is actually quite so rare. Yet, I was delighted to hear it again on
Franz Liszt’s transcription (1846) of Franz Schubert’s lieder
‘Das Sterbeglöcklein’ (also known as Das Zügenglöcklein)
is a lovely, if melancholy and compassionate, reflection on the human
response to death represented by a technically complex tolling of a
bell counter-poising the original song melody. Schubert’s song,
a setting of words by Johann Gabriel Seidl was published in 1827, the
year before the composer’s death. Luiza Borac plays this little
gem to perfection.
I have never heard of Pierre J. Zimmerman before reviewing this CD.
Born in Paris in 1785 he was a pianist, composer and teacher. His well-known
pupils included Charles-Valentin Alkan, César Franck, Georges Bizet
and Charles Gounod. The present ‘Variations sur une Romance favorite
de Blangini’, op. 7, played so well by Vincenzo Maltempo, was
written in 1809 and dedicated to the pianist and composer J.B. Cramer.
It takes the form of an introduction, a theme, a set of technically
difficult variations and a long coda. This is an immediately approachable
work that demands to be in the repertoire.
Élie Miriam Delaborde is another composer who has passed me by. He was
possibly the illegitimate son of Alkan, who also taught him piano. The
liner-notes explain one of his eccentricities – he kept more than
a hundred parrots and two apes as pets. During the Franco-Prussian War
Delaborde escaped to London, compete with his menagerie. He spent much
of his career touring with Vieuxtemps and Wieniawski. Delaborde was
a well-known figure in the intellectual circles of his day and counted
Edouard Manet and Ivan Turgenev as friends. He is regarded as a minor
composer, with a handful of operas, a piano quintet and a number of
piano pieces to his credit. The present Étude is a reworking of a Petite
Valse (no.3 of his fifteen op.3 pieces) by Victor Dolmetsch. Maltempo
reveals perfectly the romantically ‘souped-up’ nature of
this arrangement. Finally, the notes point out that Alkan wrote a piece
for his son entitled Funeral
March for a Parrot. It is a wayward (far-out?) piece that predates
Monty Python by many years.
Wim Statius Muller’s ‘Nostalgia Waltz’ does what it
says ‘on the tin’ - sentimentality. No date is given, but
something tells me that this confection was composed in the nineteen-fifties.
Muller was born in Curaçao in the Netherland Antilles and worked in
the USA, Holland and in his native land. The present work gives good
evidence for his nickname of ‘Curaçao’s Chopin’.
My major discovery on this CD was the only piece by a British composer
– Ernest Walker’s heartbreakingly, beautiful Study (not
a Prelude as given in the notes) for the left hand alone, op. 47 (1931).
Better known for his seminal A History of Music in England,
Walker was a composer, organist and pianist. The present work was one
of three written for the pianist Paul Wittgenstein who had lost his
right arm during the First World War. The Study is deeply felt, largely
exploiting the lower registers of the piano and demanding a good legato
technique. It is movingly played here by Hiroaki Takenouchi. Finally,
out of interest, Walker’s other Wittgenstein pieces were Prelude
(Larghetto), op. 61 (1935) and the Variations on an Original Theme,
for piano, clarinet and string trio (1933).
I have not heard Igor Stravinsky’s ‘Fragment’ (1920)
before, but it sounded familiar. In fact, it is a ‘transcription’
of part of the composer’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments
which was composed in 1920 and dedicated to Claude Debussy. The final
movement, or more correctly ‘episode’, of this work is a
very slow ‘Choral’. In spite of the ‘Symphonies’
being derided at its London premiere, this work is now regarded as being
a formative early example of neo-classicism. The ‘transcription’
seemingly came first. It was part of a joint publication Le Tombeau
de Debussy written for piano. This included short pieces by Goossens,
Ravel, Dukas, Bartók and de Falla.
The Piano Rag Music (1919) needs little introduction. This dynamic piece
featuring syncopation and rapidly changing time signatures is well known.
However, any unwary listeners who expect to hear pastiche Scott Joplin
may be disappointed. This is ragtime seen through the eyes of a ‘cubist’.
It is a deconstructed piece of music that also makes use of more traditional
pianistic devices such as bitonality and ostinato. Both Stravinsky pieces
are well played by Andrew Zolinsky.
Zolinsky’s other contribution to this disc is the Stefan Wolpe’s
‘Rag Caprice’. This was composed seven or eight years after
Stravinsky’s example. It is even more modernistic in tone with
‘biting dissonances’ and an up-tempo delivery. In Wolpe’s
case it is popular music seen through the eyes of a serial composer
who was strongly influenced by both jazz and Webern.
I enjoyed Nicolai Medtner’s Primavera, op.39, no.3 which
is taken from the second cycle of Forgotten Melodies. Unfortunately,
Medtner is often overlooked in favour of Rachmaninov and Scriabin. Yet
his contribution to the piano repertoire is immense with some 14 sonatas,
33 Folk-Tales and many character pieces. His inventive music is imbued
with craftsmanship and a classical poise which contrasts with Rachmaninov’s
powerful romanticism. The British pianist, Mark Viner gives a superb
account of this beautiful piece.
The final extract from the festival features the Cuban pianist Jorge
Luis Prats. Unsurprisingly his selection included four Latin American
Felix Guerrero, a fellow countryman was versed in Hispanic and Cuban
musical styles as well as the broader pianistic tradition. His adorable
Suite havanaise was assembled by Prats from a number of pieces
after the composer’s death. It is a delightful tribute.
Prats included the fourth Bachianas Brasileras in his recital:
the present ‘The broken little
music-box’ was given as an encore. It is an attractive tinkling
little piece that has just the right amount of sentimentality.
Ernesto Lecuona is another Cuban composer. The ‘Siempre esta en
mi Corazon’ (You are always in my heart) is given the full ‘cocktail-lounge’
treatment. I am not sure if this transcription is by the composer, Prats
or person unnamed. It is pure romance. The last piece, also by Lecuona
is a Mazurka glissando, which has been tinkered with by the pianist
to make it even more ‘spectacular’. Short and sweet, it
makes a perfect encore.
It goes without saying that all the performances here are second to
none. The sound quality is excellent, bearing in mind that it was recorded
with an audience in attendance. Here and there the editors have left
in the applause, which I think adds to the atmosphere of the event.
The liner-notes by Peter Grove are detailed: they discuss the composers
— where they are less well known — and the music.
My only gripe about this CD is that this is a selection: much beautiful,
fascinating and interesting music and many stunning performances have
clearly been omitted. Nevertheless a selection had to be made.
Once again Danacord has produced a winner with this yearly edition of
‘highlights’ of the Husum Music Festival. It will appeal
to all lovers of piano music as well as listeners who indulge in hunting
out obscure — but eminently worthy — music.