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Sounds of Transcendence
Charles Tomlinson GRIFFES (1884-1920)
Piano Sonata (1917-1918) [14:07]
The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan (1912-16) [8:58]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Valse, Op.38 (1903) [6:10]
Fragilité, Op. 51/1 (1906) [2:11]
Enigme, Op. 52/2 (1906) [1:26]
Piano sonata No. 7 ‘White mass’ Op 64 (1911) [13:48]
Vers la flamme, Op. 72 (1914) [5:43]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Prélude, Chorale and Fugue (M.21) (1884) [19:30]
Reed Tetzloff (piano)
rec. 2017, Oktaven Audio
ROMÉO RECORDS 7323 [72:10]

Reed Tetzloff, a Minnesotan born in 1992, is the international performing arts winner of The Center for Musical Excellence award. He was also one of the twelve semi-finalists of the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2015 and whilst he didn’t win he was acclaimed for the lyricism of his playing. The 2017 performances in his first CD seem to mirror closely the repertoire he played in Moscow two years earlier. Clearly, he had still kept the Griffes, Scriabin and Franck fully under his fingers.

Griffes’ Piano Sonata, a work that presaged directions the composer did not live to take, is steeped in the so-called synthetic scale within which his imagination has room to roam in ways that are powerful, purposeful and at a stylistic tangent from the headier exoticism of his earlier years. Feroce marks out the first movement and a stalking uneasy element suffuses the central slow movement strikingly at variance from the innocent sounding Molto tranquillo instruction. The finale generates its tensile Russophile direction in ways derived from Scriabin who had died a couple of years before Griffes embarked on the sonata. If Tetzloff doesn’t quite manage to match the intensity of Garrick Ohlsson on Hyperion he shows a thoroughly mature and elevated awareness of the music’s modernity of expression. The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan is best-known in its orchestral guise in which expressionist fervor is at its most intoxicating. The original piano version differs from the later orchestrated version, which contains significant additional material. This is not a piano reduction, but represents instead Griffes’ first thoughts. The music retains that shuddering, irresistibly seductive element but given its skeletal nature perhaps reflects Scriabin’s influence even more vividly.

It was perceptive therefore for Tetzloff to programme five pieces by the Russian composer. The Valse, Op.38 has a shapely rhythm, Fragilité is attractive though misses Sofronitzky’s malleable shaping of the line and sense of colour, and he supports the quixotic terseness of Enigme very adeptly. He plays the White Mass sonata, No.7, Op.64, that tonality-defying quasi-improvisatory psychodrama with insight and though Vers le Flamme never quite reaches heights of ultra-ignition, it reflects well on his bravado that he should have chosen the last two works, so incendiary are they. He played the Franck Prelude, Choral et Fugue in his Moscow competition performance and if the performance doesn’t match those of the Griffes brace and the Scriabin quintet – he seems more at home with the expressionist and the hallucinatory – it furnishes evidence of affiliations beyond those expressive sound worlds. I wish, however, he had chosen something that balanced the programme a little more appropriately.

The recording is just slightly splashy, but it doesn’t blunt dynamics or colour.

Jonathan Woolf



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