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Karol A. Penson Transcriptions
Cyprien Katsaris (piano)
rec. 2008-13, Tonstudio Teije van Geest, Heidelberg/Sandhausen, The Netherlands; 2016/17, Église évangélique Sain-Marcel, Paris
PIANO 21 P21058N [78:10]

The latest release from Cyprien Katsaris’ Piano21 label to come my way is this recital of transcriptions by Karol A Penson, who studied piano in Warsaw but simultaneously perused a degree in physics and mathematics and chose to work as a researcher; he is now professor of theoretical physics at the University of Paris VI. Though he has always played the piano for his own pleasure it wasn’t until Penson was 51 that he was urged to write a series of transcriptions, and this selection of 23 provides evidence of why the suggestion was made. He is a thoughtful, wide-ranging, sympathetic and above all inquisitive transcriber seeking out material wherever he may find it – and that includes street musicians playing unexpected pieces, such as the guitarist in Cologne in 1996 who played Barrios Mangoré’s Chôro da Saudade, a piece Penson hadn’t heard before and who gave Penson the guitar score. It’s duly included in the recital.

To be strictly accurate about the nature of the transcriptions there are two examples where Penson has employed existing transcriptions; in the case of the Bach Chorale he has employed the work of Arthur Willner and for Richard Strauss’ Heimkehr, he has used Walter Gieseking’s work. Other than these two examples all the work is solely Penson’s. The Bach is very richly voiced and most sympathetically played by Katsaris, a master of most genres. Schubert’s An Sylvia is light and charming whilst Schumann’s Mondnacht is expressively plangent. Penson is careful always to keep the melodic line of Zueignung audible at all times. A very much more unusual example of the transcriptive art comes in the Allegretto (the second movement) of Grieg’s Violin Sonata No 2. Much to my surprise, it works well.

For the Karłowicz brace he thanks the contralto Ewa Podleś for bringing them to his attention and there are few singers more authoritative and powerful in the Polish song repertoire than she. In the Snow, the second of the two songs Person has transcribed, is especially frothy, almost salonish. Zygmunt Noskowski’s Tristesse (Smutno), Op.62 No.1 is more evidence of Polish art song and its strong vein of melancholy is appositely brought out. Both Shaporin songs are valuable; In the lonely heart is a particularly good example of Shaporin’s command of ardently melancholic romance. Both these Shaporins and Glazunov’s Meditation, Op.32 are played on a Steingraeber E-272 and it’s noticeable, especially in the Glazunov, that though the recording quality has an amplitude not always heard elsewhere, the piano is inferior to his usual Steinway D.

The sequence of engaging items continues with a lovely version of Fauré’s Nell and those two guitar evocations, Mangoré’s Chôro and Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra, which I recall from its inclusion in a previous Katsaris album of 111 Piano Hits (Piano Classics P21 052-N).

The notes consist of an interview between pianist and transcriber, in English and French. I admit to being a fervent admirer of the pianist and this release, with such sympathetic transcriptions and performances, doesn’t lessen my admiration in any way.

Jonathan Woolf

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
St John Passion, BWV245: Ruht wohl, ihr heiligen Gebeine trans. Arthur Willner and Karol A Penson [2:23]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
An Sylvia, D891 [2:31]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Mondnacht (No. 5 from Liederkreis, Op. 39) [4:20]
Berg' und Burgen, Op. 24 No. 7 [3:26]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Wie Melodien zieht es mir, Op. 105 No. 1 [2:48]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Der Engel (No. 1 from Wesendonck-Lieder) [3:42]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Zueignung, Op.10 No.1 [1:25]
Allerseelen, Op. 10 No. 8 [2:42]
Heimkehr, Op. 15 No. 5 transc. Walter Gieseking and Karol A penson[2:26]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Violin Sonata No. 2 in G major, Op. 13: Allegretto tranquillo [6:13]
Mieczysław KARLOWICZ (1876-1909)
Dla zasmuconej [2:29]
Na sniegu (In the snow), Op. 1 No. 3 [1:37]
Witold FRIEMANN (1889-1977)
Cudne oczy (Wonderful eyes) [2:10]
Zygmunt NOSKOWSKI (1846-1909)
Smutno (Tristesse) Op. 62, No. 1
César CUI (1835-1918)
Nightingale, Op.33 No.1 [1:45]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Meditation, Op. 32 [3:52]
Yuri SHAPORIN (1887-1966)
In the lonely heart [3:50]
Your languid southern voice [3:26]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Adieux de l'hotesse Arabe, WD72 [5:20]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Nell, Op. 18 No. 1 [2:25]
Federico MOMPOU (1893-1987)
Damunt de tu, nomes les flors (from Combat del somni, No.1) [4:24]
Francisco TÁRREGA (1852-1909)
Recuerdos de la Alhambra [3:41]
Augustin Barrios MANGORÉ (1885-1944)
Chôro da Saudade [6:19]


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