rarities piano husum 2022 danacord

Rarities of Piano Music at Schloss vor Husum from the August 2022 Festival
rec. live, 12-20 August 2022, Husum, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
Danacord DACOCD969 [77]

I always love the arrival of the annual Rarities of Piano Music disc, or Rob’s-Xmas-present-come-early as it is otherwise known in this household but I was briefly taken aback glancing through the contents. Beethoven? Schubert!?. Surely not. Have no fear festival lovers for even these familiar names have relative unfamiliar works in their canon. Matthias Kirschnereit, who stood in at short notice for the scheduled pianist, played three little heard Beethoven items including the Polonaise played here; it was dedicated to Russian Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna whom Beethoven met whilst in Vienna. After a short cadenza like introduction the main theme enters, elegant and jubilant, a contrast to the noble and searching examples that Chopin was to pen. It could almost be a sonata finale. Ukrainian pianist Vadym Kholodenko played a posthumously published Sonata by Schubert, an 1826 revision of a sonata he had written in 1817. We hear the G minor andante molto, poetically played with quite a bit of rubato at times and, in the central triplets, quite light and playful. Kholodenko went on to play Silvestrov’s fragile first bagatelle as an encore and the delicacy of its gentle arabesques and sparse melody are captured quite touchingly. It leads nicely into the two Scriabin items performed by Jean-Paul Gasparian, the late désir and the sumptuous B minor Prélude, distinctly different harmonically but separated by just five years. Amongst female composers Chaminade has featured since the earliest year of the festival but others are now beginning to make an appearance; Nicolas Stavy placed Mel Bonis’ Romance without words alongside the three op.17 romances by Fauré and it must have fitted in perfectly with its flowing arpeggio accompaniment and yearning melody threading through. There is something a little different from Chaminade next, especially if you are familiar with salon works like her handkerchief dance or Air de Ballet or herdazzling études; the desolate tone poem Au pays dévasté with its haunting outer sections and impassioned centre amply demonstrates that none were unaffected by the horrors of the first world war.

Kolja Lessing played music by Ignace Strasfogel in the presence of the composer in his 1991 festival debut and returns to his music with the Variations on a well-known tune, written for the composer’s six year old son in 1946. I will not give the game away by revealing the well-known tune; suffice it to say the variations present a series of vignettes of family life with titles such as skipping to school, brief and …well skipping, baby’s bath, a gentle rocking variation, big brother and baby brother, contrasting the rambunctious nature of the older sibling with the calm demeanour of the younger – and imitating Mussorgsky along the way. The musical neighbour, variation six, is hard at work on his little waltz, perhaps not always successfully and variation eight, happy Dreams is a more scherzo-like waltz but things get more serious with the final variation, a resolute and strident passacaglia simply marked another day – procession.  Xaver Scharwenka’s music gets the occasional outing but we seldom hear from his older brother Philipp; Nadeja Vlaeva played his five pieces op.101 of which we hear the third. There are hints of Schumann but also Chopin in its mazurka-like style and even occasional hints of Spain in its figuration. Her encore was the dazzling sixth piece from Gulda’s jazz collection play piano play, a toccata and stride fantasy in which Vlaeva shows that she is not just a dazzling pianist she is also a mean improviser, filling the suggested parts of the score with her own brand of keyboard wizardry. Staying with the lighter side of music is Paul Guinery making his first appearance at the festival. He plays a couple of pieces from his excellent recent CD Dicky Bird Hop (EM Records EMRCD064 review), Arnold Bax’s Oliver’s Sleepless Night and Billy Mayerl’s Jill all alone. The former is something of a tender cradle song for all it’s subject’s insomnia though some piquant harmonies suggest Oliver’s restlessness. Ermenegilda, or Jill, was Mayerl’s wife and the nostalgic waltz Jill all alone was written for her. It is one of his last pieces, quite different in mood to what we expect of Mayerl and written at a time when his health and success were both in decline. As the booklet says there is the added poignancy that Jill was indeed all alone just four years later. It is one of my favourite Mayerl works and a welcome gem here. I am always happy to see the name Antonio Pompa-Baldi on a recording for his spirited and evocative playing and he does not disappoint here with three winning pieces. I have not come across Chilean composer Enrique Soro Barriga though after studies in Milan he appears to have been a major force for classical music in his home country through his directorship of the Conservatory in Santiago. His unashamedly passionate and beautifully written Andante Appassionato was written when he was just seventeen though it was originally for orchestra with the piano version only appearing in 1909 – there are also versions for chamber orchestra, string quartet and piano quartet so it evidently enjoyed considerable success; I am very glad to be introduced to it. Most pianophiles match the name Riccardo Pick-Mangiagalli to the moderately familiar Olaf’s Dance from his deux lunaires which was recorded by Eileen Joyce and several others (including a piano roll by none other than Wilhelm Backhaus). I am surprised that his piano music has been neglected so it is a joy to hear the first of his three Concert studies played so wonderfully by Pompa-Baldi. It has a similar feel to Olaf’s dance with its scherzo-like phantasmagoria, skipping and cavorting around the keyboard in a kaleidoscope of whole-tone harmonies. These were encores after his main programme which included his improvisation on Charlie Chaplin’s Smile, a quite beautiful and wonderfully affectionate tribute which has echoes of the  transcriptions of Earl Wild and Stephen Hough.

The husband and wife team that are the Berlinskaya/Ancelle Duo complete the recital with two arrangements. The first is by Victor Babin from another married partnership, Vronsky and Babin,  the exquisitely realised transcription of Volkhova’s lullaby from Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Sadko; its rich but delicate textures are captured marvellously by this wonderful duo. Alexander Tsfasman is no stranger to the festival and is represented here by a two piano arrangement of his fantasy on George Gershwin’s The man I love. Igor Tsyganov made this arrangement from a recording and it differs from the printed score of the solo version in many ways; as a jazz musician Tsfasman would presumably have not followed his own score absolutely faithfully. He was however classically trained, studying piano under Horowitz’s teacher Felix Blumenfeld and for all the jazz stylings this is essentially a Lisztian paraphrase complete with slow statement of the theme, a rich textured chordal version, a waltz and plenty of filigree decoration. It is a showstopper of an ending to this varied taster of the 2022 festival, demonstrating just how well this small but perfectly formed festival is doing after over three decades. Here’s to the next three decades.

Rob Challinor

Previous review: John France (August 2023)

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Presto Music

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Polonaise in C major, op.89 (1814)
Matthias Kirschnereit (piano)
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Piano Sonata No.7 in E flat major, D568, II. Andante molto (1817)
Valentin Silvestrov (b. 1937)
Bagatelle op.1 No.1, Allegretto (2005)
Vadym Kholodenko (piano)
Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915)
Désir, op.57 No.1 (1908)
Prelude, op.37 No.1 (1903)
Jean-Paul Gasparian (piano)
Mélanie (Mel) Bonis (1858-1937)
Romance sans paroles in G flat major, op.56 (1905)
Nicolas Stavy (piano)
Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944)
Au pays dévasté, op.155 (1914)
Ignace Strasfogel (1909-1994)
Variations on a Well-Known Tune (1946)
Kolja Lessing (piano)
Philipp Scharwenka (1847-1917)
Five Piano Pieces, op.101 No.3, Allegro non troppo (1897)
Friedrich Gulda (1930-2000)
Play Piano Play “10 Pieces for Yuko” No.6, Presto possibile (1971)
Nadejda Vlaeva (piano)
Arnold Bax (1883-1953)
Oliver’s Sleepless Night (from Oliver Twist) (1948)
Billy Mayerl (1902-59)
Jill All Alone in G major (1955)
Paul Guinery (piano)
Enrique Soro Barriga (1884-1954)
Andante appassionato, op.2 (1901)
Riccardo Pick-Mangiagalli (1882-1949)
Tre Studi da Concerto, op.31 No.1, Vivacissimo (1915, ed. 1929)
Antonio Pompa-Baldi (b. 1974)
Smile-Improvisation on a Chaplin Tune (2021)
Antonio Pompa-Baldi (piano)
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), arr. Victor BabinCradle Song (from Sadko) (1937)
Alexander Tsfasman (1906-1971), arr. Igor Tsygankov
Fantasy on George Gershwin “The Man I Love.” (?)
Berlinskaya and Ancelle Piano Duo