Trust Toccata Classics to approach these three names from one of the golden ages of pianism from an unaccustomed angle. All three wrote piano music under the nurturing that being a great world-touring pianist brings. Levitzki's haughty Valse de concert - one of many waltzes from his pen - has plenty of sentimental fancy in play. There's a touching Valse in A Major, a slow motion swirling Arabesque Valsante and a nice Valse Tzigane. The dance theme continues with a Meissen china Gavotte, a trilling and tear-unfocused Enchanted Nymph and a Dance of the Doll that bears the stamp of ragtime.
There's not a lot of Gabrilowitsch but it is classy. The Romance is touching and perfumed with a romance that sweeps along in Chopin-like grandeur. A deliberate pulse is often favoured and this seems to imply cool calculation rather than anything impulsive. The Gavotte, rather like the one by Levitzki, has a predictably antique surface. The Feuillet is successful - a vehicle for the finer emotions; nothing cheap and nothing melodramatic.
I was less impressed with the Friedman arrangements. The four offered up seem prettified and of them only the Couperin, with its grace-note delights and ice-palace fantasy, holds the attention. The disc concludes with no fewer than eleven original works by Friedman. The four Preludes are impressive: No. 1: subtle with delicately chiming dissonances and a sleepy sign-off; No. 2: alive with swirling activity; No. 3: bell-tower Rachmaninov echoes but too short-breathed and No. 4: a quick pulsed and capricious brevity. The selection of Études include a trillingly liquid charmer (No.1 ), an exercise in rapid tremolo (No. 2), a luxuriously emotional essay presented in velvet (No. 4), a sentimental Allegro, con abandono (No. 9), a Godowsky-style study in decorative intricacy, a stormy tempest of the heart, very much in the Rachmaninovian manner (No. 11); likewise the final one (No. 16).
This very well-packed CD is further evidence that Toccata continues to enrich the classical listening experience with unexpected perspectives. Where Toccata lead others may follow. Not everything from these three contemporaries has striking musical substance but there is much to impress and where it does not impress it certainly delights.
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