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Jascha Spivakovsky (piano)
Bach to Bloch - Volume 6

rec. 1955-66

This revealing series moves on without any undue cessation. All five previous volumes have been reviewed here. Source material once more derives from home recordings and broadcasts, whether radio or television, confined to the years 1955-c.1966. And once again Mark Ainley’s page-long notes introduce the performances, almost always with a most glowing appraisal.

Mostly it’s justified. The Bach Italian Concerto is played at a judicious tempo, with sufficient clarity and lively rhythm, sporting an unsentimental, sensitively shaped approach in the central movement – with deftly expressive rubati. Articulation in the finale is enhanced by lithe left-hand voicings. Throughout, Spivakosvky shows a more colour-conscious use of the pedal than Alexander Borovsky in his Bach playing, made commercially at around the same time and reissued by Pristine.

Mozart’s G major sonata, K283 reveals a warmly sympathetic, unexaggerated performance, playful in places but never knowing. The conversational exchanges between the hands in the finale are especially felicitous. The Impromptu in D flat, D899 is, it appears, the sole surviving example of Spivakovsky’s Schubert and comes from a home recording made in 1963. It’s fresh, fluent and strongly voiced and like most things here, sounds well in the Pristine XR restoration. Chopin’s Nocturne in F sharp major comes from a TV broadcast. This was a piece he’d recorded for Parlophone 78s in the 1920s, though the disc was never released. One wonders if it enshrined the Golden Age romanticisms of this decades-later performance. Where Mark Ainley hears ‘filigree fingerwork truly coloratura in nature’ I hear exaggeration. There’s a very strongly dispatched Waltz to conclude the Chopin brace. Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.15 brings sinewy virtuosity on board so if you want to encounter a vividly etched Rakoczy March, here’s one more to add to the roster.

The final piece is by some distance the major piece here, Schumann’s Piano Sonata No.3, the ‘Concerto without Orchestra’, a piece with which he had long familiarity. He’d had to prepare it for the 1910 Blüthner Prize, a competition he won at the age of thirteen. Over 50 years later he plays it with powerful architectural insights and distinguished tonal resources.

It unfolds with a true sense of direction and makes a fitting apex to a consistently rewarding programme.

Jonathan Woolf

Johann Sebastian BACH
Italian Concerto in F major, BWV 971 [12:20]
1962 broadcast recording
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Piano Sonata No.5 in G major, K.283 [12:38]
1966 Melbourne broadcast recording
Impromptu in E flat major, D.899, Op. 90, No. 2 [4:20]
1963 home recording
Fryderyk CHOPIN
Nocturne in F sharp major, Op. 15, No. 2 [4:08]
c.1966 TV broadcast recording
Waltz No. 14 in E minor, Op. Post. [3:16]
1955 broadcast recording
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 15 in A minor, 'Rakoczy March' [6:04]
1963 home recording
Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 14, "Concerto without orchestra" [29:01]
c.1963 Melbourne broadcast recording


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