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Alles Walzer, einmal anders!
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
5 Waltzes from 36 original dances D.365 (1816-21) [4:15]
Franz SCHUBERT / Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Soirée de Vienne. Valse caprice S.427 No.6 (1846-1852) [7:00]
Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke. Mephisto Waltz No.1 S.514 (1859-1861) [12:30]
Josef STRAUSS (1827-1870)
Waltz in B flat major, “Wiener Kinder” (1858) [8:20]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899) / Adolf SCHULZ-EVLER (1852-1905)
Arabesques on “By the beautiful Blue Danube” (1867) [9:58]
György LIGETI (1923-2006)
Tempo di valse - Musica Ricercata No.4 (1951-53) [2:06]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Bagatelle – valse Sz.38 No.14 (1908) [2:04]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
La plus que lente (1910) [4:21]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
La Valse. Poème chorégraphique (1919-20) [12:27]
Dora Deliyska (piano)
rec. 2019, L Bösendorfer Klavierfabrik, Wiener Neustadt, Austria

This is an intriguing programme. The title refers to the Austrian call to dance Alles Walzer, a nod to the standard waltz repertoire, whilst the second part, einmal anders (once in a different way) reflects the more radical approaches to waltz rhythm employed by Ligeti and Bartók. One might add Ravel to this category too, though perhaps his choreographic poem La Valse, played here in the composer's own transcription, stands more on the border between these two camps. I have heard the work described as a requiem for a waltz rather than a celebration; ghosts of the rhythm flit back and forth, seldom lingering, and these shifting sands rhythm and harmony place it some distance from the waltzes of Schubert and Strauss.

Deliyska's programme is extremely well balanced and, in what could have been a tedious preponderance of triple time, remarkably varied. The simplicity of the brief Schubert waltzes and the gentle waltz sequence by Josef Strauss is interspersed with the complexity and iridescent virtuosity of Ravel, Liszt and Schulz-Evler and the off-kilter quirkiness of Ligeti.

She also brings these contrasts together; the individual works by Schubert and Liszt are connected by Liszt's homage to the older master in the sixth Soirées de Vienne, the most familiar of the nine he composed based on melodies from the huge amount of short dances that Schubert composed and indeed the second Schubert waltz that Deliyska plays – No.22 from D.365 – was used in the first of Liszt's Soirées de Vienne.
Deliyska chooses 5 waltzes from the D.365 set, Nos. 27, 22, 10, 13 and 12. The sequence starts in the minor key and works its way to A flat via the interestingly ambiguous waltz in B, hovering as it does between B major and minor. The pianist notes that she plays these and the middle waltz in the Schubert/Liszt at a slower tempo let the sound makes its own way... That may well be but I didn't feel that was too slow and she plays with a wonderful sense of space laying a lovely foundation for Liszt arabesques. The outer sections of the Mephisto waltz are suitably virtuosic, especially the octave leaps in the latter half and if the central un poco meno mosso is a little more meno than I generally like there is no denying the exquisite poetry of the playing.

Josef Strauss's Wiener Kinder is a not one of the most familiar Viennese waltzes by any means even in its orchestral guise. Deliyska chose it for its simplicity and beauty after seeing it in a first edition collection of waltzes by Josef and the two Johanns. She certainly captures this well in an elegant performance. Occasionally one might miss the orchestral colour – the opening horn solo for instance – but this does not detract from enjoying this rarely heard waltz. Adolf Schulz-Evler is a fully signed up member of the one-hit-wonder club. Until Hyperion records recorded his Russian Rhapsodie in 2015 (CDA68109 review) his Arabesques on “By the beautiful Blue Danube” was the only work of his on disc. It transports us into much more familiar territory. The original of course is recognisable the world over but even this transcription has gained a foothold amongst pianists since it was brought into the spotlight by the wonderful Josef Lhévinne and his 1928 Victor recording. This version (with small cuts) is very well played and Deliyska is on top of all the technical challenges but, listening again to Lhévinne's version I have to say that his panache and sheer joi de vivre is missing in this present recording.

In sharp contrast to this high octane virtuosity is the excerpt from György Ligeti's Musica Ricercata – the tempo di valse. This eccentric waltz is subtitled l'orgue de Barbarie - barrel organ - and as such it is riddled with the rubato, ritardandi and sudden accelerandos that the organ grinder would bring into his playing. That is coupled with the inclusion of bars in 2/4 time creating a limping effect; one is reminded of Dohnanyi's Valse boiteuse – limping waltz - written in 5/4 though the harmonic language is very different. This has a feverish, driven feel to it and the opening theme has echoes of Chopin's Waltz in D flat though in a demented kind of way. Equally mad is Bartók's Valse; ma mie qui danse – My dancing girl. Despite this title this is not a waltz for dancing; it is fast and furious, reckless, volatile and humorous. In its 2-minute duration it whirls through harmonies as quickly as its disjointed rhythm changes.

La plus que lente is a welcome respite from this frenzy, the calm before the storm to come. That storm is heralded by the evocative low rumble in the piano; the opening of La Valse. Fragments of the waltz flair and die in its growing power. Whether or not the unrest and torment that lies within this work was a reflection of the emerging dark clouds of the age (this was written in post-war Europe and the Vienna of the waltz kings, opulent and carefree was a thing of the past) it certainly feels like it should be and Deliyska responds admirably to the conflicting passions within the piece.

The sound is excellent and Deliyska's notes are informative and personal; they make clear how she has approached these pieces. Her Schubert/Liszt is influenced by her playing of the original Schubert and she emphasises the humour and sarcasm in the Bartók. She certainly has the measure of all these works but she doesn't emphasise the virtuosic elements choosing rather to concentrate on the character of each piece within the context of the programme as a whole.

Robert Challinor

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