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The Celebrated New York Concerts - Volume 8: The Alice Tully Hall Recital
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor, K. 310 (1778) [17:29]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
25 Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, Op. 24 (1861) [31:13]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Sonatine (1904) [10:44]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
3 Petrarch Sonnets (1839-46): Sonetto 47, S161/4 [6:37]: Sonetto 104, S161/5 [5:46]: Sonetto 123, S161/6 [6:40]
Mephisto Waltz No. 1 (before 1861) [11:03]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1809-1847)
Mazurka in a minor, Op. 17, No. 4 [4:28]
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
Guitarre, Op. 45, No. 2 (1888-1890) [3:22]
Mordecai Shehori (piano)
rec. live 7 June 2000, Alice Tully Hall, New York City
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD181 [48:52 + 48:44]

Mordecai Shehori’s recital at Alice Tully Hall in June 2000 presented a challenging programme that required every expressive and technical resource at his disposal. His Mozart A minor sonata is engagingly structured, with a very slow and thoughtful slow movement, complete with excellent trill and bracing tempi for the outer movements. The besetting problem that applies to this and every item is the recording and I am afraid it qualifies such points as I will make. I don’t know the exact circumstances of the set-up but it sounds to me as if the mike or recorder was positioned somewhere toward the middle of the stalls. It renders things distant and flat and irons out dynamics and – to a degree – sometimes renders even his phraseology doubtful to interpret, critically speaking.

Having acknowledged that, his Brahms Handel Variations is largely very successful. He makes a meal of the treble run in the first variation – contrast Etelka Freund, who knew Brahms and recorded the variations many years later – and quite some rubato in variation four, powerfully emoting in variation 5, but he is neither as ardent or lithe as Freund in the succeeding variation. This sounds like an ingenious, interesting performance – I wondered if his extroversion in the faster variations might have drawn near to that of Katchen – but I was constantly frustrated as to his intentions and execution by the swimmy acoustic.

He’s more quicksilver in Ravel’s Sonatine than Perlemuter’s 1973 recording, taking a similar tempo to Gieseking, though Shehori’s rubati and accenting alike are more overt. The Liszt Petrarch Sonnets reveal the brimstone but also the poetry in Shehori’s musical makeup. Once past a decidedly gruff opening, he may be less subtle than Simon Barere in Sonnetto 104 – Barere’s late recording is ironically on Shehori’s own label – but there was incendiary music-making going on in this sequence, and poetry too. He tears into the Mephisto Waltz No1 though without Earl Wild’s narrative drama. His encores are Chopin’s Mazurka in A minor – rather bland next to Maryla Jonas – and the decidedly Old School Guitarre by Moszkowski.

Some of my strictures here may be the result of that cloudy, distant recording. It makes critical judgement difficult. Acknowledging that these things are tricky if not impossible to correct post-facto, the listener will have decide if the aural compromises involved are outweighed by the frequently fine playing to be encountered in this recital.

Jonathan Woolf



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