SAINT-SAËNS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op., 22.
RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G. GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue. GERSHWIN-GRAINGER:
SCARLATTI: Sonata, K. 87/K33, MOZART: Sonata, K. 333. CHOPIN:
Berceuse. KOCZALSKI: Valse fantastique. LISZT: Csárdás macabre. DEBUSSY: Clair
de lune. RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Flight of the Bumblebee. RACHMNANINOFF: Prelude,
Op. 8 No. 12. SCRIABIN: Etude, Op. 23 No. 5. MOSZKOWSKI: Étincelles.
HOROWITZ: Danse excentrique. MOZART-VOLODOS: Rondo from Sonata, K. 331.
MORRICONE: Playing love. WILLIAMS: Main Title from Star Wars
GRANADOS: Goyescas. FALLA: Pantome and Cancion
del fuego fatuyo from
El Amor Brujo.
CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11. Piano Concerto No.
2 in F minor, Op. 21.
The British are rightfully proud of their own and now, in addition to Andy Murray's tennis triumphs, they can be proud of young pianist Benjamin Grosvenor (b. 1992) who studied at the Royal Academy of Music. Upon his graduation last year he was given the Queen's Award for Excellence for the best all-round student of the year. Grosvenor also has won a number of prestigious prizes, and now we have his second CD for Decca (the first was Chopin/Liszt/Ravel). Here we have concerted works, Saint-Saëns' Concerto No. 2, Ravel's Concerto in G, and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, along with three solos, one by each composer.. In CD notes, Grosvenor speaks about his affection for jazz, and this is obvious from his Ravel and Gershwin performances. The Ravel is followed by the wistful Prelude in A minor, a perfect brief introduction to the Gershwin, which is followed by Percy Grainger's gentle arrangement of his friend's song Love Walked In. The major work is the Saint-Saëns concerto, given a rather brisk interpretation that misses some of the first movement's serene beauty. All of his music receives virtuoso performances, and Decca's sound is clear and impactful. The Rhapsody has a terrific clarinet opening, and is heard in the Ferde Grofe's version for jazz band.
Australian pianist Ingolf Wunder (b. 1985), winner of many first prizes in major competitions, is a standout in the current explosion of young keyboard virtuosos. His first disk under his new contract with DGG was a Chopin recital; also available are prize-winning performances from the 2010 International Chopin Competition in which he won second prize. This second DGG issue is called "300" supposedly because it contains music written over three centuries, all of these works important to the pianist. It is one of the oddest compilations I've ever heard, including music of limited interest. Koczalski's little waltz doesn't amount to much, nor does the Morricone piece—and the 6 minutes of Star Wars really doesn't work on the piano. Wunder tosses off Arcadi Volodos' transcription of Mozart's Turkish Rondo with ease (prefacing it with the Mozart original), and Flight of the Bumblebee is played in Rachmaninoff's transcription rather than the fiendishly demanding Georges Cziffra version. A fine modern recording of Horowitz's odd little dance is welcome; Wunder makes a stronger case for the music than the composer did in his 1930 recording. No question, Wunder is a major figure on the current pianist scene. I hope future releases will have more focus than this issue.
American pianist Nicholas Zumbro enjoys a distinguished career on the concert stage but is best known for his remarkable academic career: he has just celebrated his 25th year as Music Professor at the University of Arizona. He also is a composer; his opera Well known for his performances of Ives' Concord Sonata and other contemporary music, it is surprising Zumbro has made few recordings. His early recording of music of Liszt has long been discontinued and his recordings of music of Ives and Barber are not generally available. . Now we can hear his artistry on this two-disk set of the complete Goyescas of Granados (including El Pelele, Crepuscolo and Intermezzo), a work Zumbro has featured often in his concerts. We also have two excerpts from Falla's El Amor Brujo as fillers—but surprisingly not the famous Ritual Fire Dance. This is not a new recording—it was taped in London in 1992—but audio quality is excellent. A commendable issue!
Now on to an historic keyboard master, Alexander Isaakovich Cherkassky (known as Shura which is a diminutive form of Alexander), born in Russia in 1909. The family came to the United States to escape the Russian Revolution and lived the last part of his life in England. His teachers included the legendary Josef Hofmann. When Cherkassky died in 1995, he had been giving concerts for seven decades. He gave numerous concerts, made many recordings and was known by conductors for his spontaneous attitude toward interpretation, and some were reluctant to conduct for him. Cherkassky gives two vivid performances of Chopin's concertos, the first a Glasgow studio December 3, 1981, the second a performance from Royal Albert Hall August 30, 1983. These are terrific,distinctive performances in every way, and the recorded sound is excellent. This is the only currently available recording of Cherkassky playing Concerto No. 1; there is a 1964 studio recording of Concerto No. 2 made for the Reader's Digest with the Royal Philharmonic conducted by Rudolf Kempe, now available on Chesky.
R.E.B. (February 2013)