Rarities scloss2002 DACOCD609

Déjà Review: this review was first published in November 2003 and the recording is still available.

Rarities of Piano Music at Schloss vor Husum 2002
rec. live, August 2002, Schloss vor Husum, Germany
Danacord DACOCD609 [78]

The annual summer piano festival in Schloss vor Husum explores a wide-ranging repertoire, but specialises in more out of the way fare and makes a point of encouraging transcriptions. The festivals are now well documented on disc and the latest is no exception in its exploration of intriguing corners of the repertoire and an admixture of established twentieth century literature. The virtues of such concert programming can be, on disc, somewhat less attractive if only for the abrupt and contrasting juxtapositions that invariably follow. Such a limitation exists here I think for all the otherwise fine playing.

For those who fancy such a programme however there are a number of things to catch the ear. Steven Osborne’s Medtner is very attractive though significantly less tonally combustible than was the composer himself in his traversals of these pieces for HMV. Where Medtner opened Op. 20/1 with such noble etching and explored sometimes dramatic elasticity of line and depth of sonority Osborne is very much more equable, his dynamics flatter and are less pronounced. His passagework is clean and clear, his projection less emotionally vital, with very much less sense of collapse at the end. Similarly whilst Medtner mines a grotesque malignity in No.2 of the set, with massive etching and wide tonal extremes, Osborne prefers a more breezy linearity, though he lacks nothing in the powerful climaxes. Konstantin Lifschitz takes on the heroic Sonata-Ballade in a recording that seems a mite more recessed and less immediate than that accorded Osborne. This still doesn’t damage one’s appreciation of his passionate unfolding of Medtner’s soundscape or the intense and singular introspection that lies at its blazing heart.

Jean Dubé’s Ciurlionis is affectionate and he captures the wandering patina of the second of the Op. 20 set with acumen whilst Nicholas Walker essays Baines, not inappropriately in this Slavic company since Baines’ aesthetic was not one confined to native soil. In The Lone Wreck Walker rolls those ominous arpeggios over the pedal bass with understanding, even if in comparison with, say, Eric Parkin he lacks a certain brooding insistence. Goodnight to Flamboro’ is fine; softer, slower, more nostalgic and reflective than Parkin – and less glinting and visceral. Kolja Lessing gives us three composers – maybe the Szymanowski, whilst sinuously played, is also a little heavy – and Enrico Pace appears with Prokofiev (excellent rolled chords in the Gavotte of the Op. 12). Elsewhere we have the expected heroics from Marc-André Hamelin – wonderfully clear and driving Villa-Lobos (he must have driven the audience to a pitch of excitement and indeed Danacord preserves the whooping applause) and grave Scriabin. Frédéric Meinders certainly has programming ideas of his own (look at the head note) and is a transcriber of enthusiasm. He transports us to the salon with his Samson et Dalila – even if I detected some over-emphatic left hand and a bit of unease generally. I can’t say his Fats Waller tribute is subtle exactly – there’s some splintering left hand along the way – but it’s diverting. The highlight of Yaara Tal and Andreas Groethuysen’s Friedman Waltzes is their beautiful reading of the second.

Jonathan Woolf

Contents & pianists
Nikolai MEDTNER (1879-1951)
Fairy Tales Op. 20 No.1
Fairy Tales Op. 20 No.2
Steven Osborne (piano)
Sonata-Ballade in F sharp major Op. 27
Konstantin Lifschitz (piano)
Mikolajus CIURLIONIS (1875-1911)
Three Preludes Op. 20
Jean Dubé (piano)
William BAINES (1899-1922)
The Lone Wreck
Goodnight to Flamboro’
Nicholas Walker (piano)
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Mazurka Op. 62 No.2
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Prelude in A minor
Max REGER (1873-1916)
Marsch der Stiftsdamen
Kolja Lessing (piano)
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
From Ten Pieces Op. 12, Nos 1, 2 and 5
Enrico Pace (piano)
Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
O Polichinello (Punch)
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Etude in C sharp minor Op. 2 No.1
Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Mon Coeur s’ouvre à ta voix – arr Meinders
Thomas “Fats” WALLER (1904-1943)
Ain’t Misbehavin’ arr Meinders
Frédéric Meinders (piano)
Ignaz FRIEDMAN (1882-1948)
Five Waltzes (for piano four hands)
Yaara Tal and Andreas Groethuysen (pianos)

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