Sonata No. 4 Keltic ((1901) Forgotten Fairy Tales
((1897) Six Heine Poems (1887) Twelve Virtuoso Studies (1894)
The grandissimo Keltic Sonatas flourishes strike
up and down the scale. Heroically impressive in Brahmsian dress its
grandeur is diffused by a spoonful or two of sentimentality in the middle
movement but the finale is resplendently resounding. The whole is well
worth hearing but neither especially Celtic nor distinctively American
in any way I can detect.
The Forgotten Fairy Tales sound from the title to be
a Medtnerian sequence. Far from it. these are accomplished, charming,
non-threatening and ultimately tame childrens stories. Yes, all
charm, but done in aristocratic style. A Victorian Disney approach to
fairytales that are often darker and more dangerous than they are given
The six pieces in the Heine set are poetically Brahmsian
often radiating antique joy. The Postwaggon borrows some Rossinian mountain
pastoralism from Guglielmo Tell. The Shepherd Boy reminded me fleetingly
of Saint-Saens (2nd piano concerto).
The Twelve Virtuoso Studies are remarkable for their
lively spirit. There is a demented butterfly of a Moto Perpetuo, a Mendelssohnian
Wilde Jagd, the starry flight of Elfentanz and the cool Brahmsian fever
of Märzwind. The Impromptu is much indebted to Chopin and the final
Polonaise melds elements of Chopin with some watery pre-echoes of Medtner
in the grand manner.
The cover art uses a landscape painting by Washington
Allston as does volume 4. The notes are by the Ledins who are the American
Classics Series producers and consultants to Naxos.
Recommended in the same spirit as the recommendation
for Volume 4. I look forward to hearing the earlier volumes.