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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Album for the Young, Op.39 (1878) [23:03] Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Lyric Pieces Book VII, Nos. 1-6, Op.62 (1895) [15:01]: Book VIII, Nos. 1, 2, 5, 6, Op.65 (1896) [16:28]: Book IX, complete, Op.68 (1898) [16:47]
Alexander Goldenweiser (piano)
rec. c.1952-54, Moscow APR 5661 [71:35]
The eminent pedagogue and performer Alexander Goldenweiser stars in his own marque in this release. It falls under the rubric ‘The Goldenweiser School’ and who better than he to appear, in the shape of two solo outings made in Moscow around 1952-53. There seems, throughout this series, to be some quite serious dating questions and circa is about as good as we’re going to get, for now.
Goldenweiser (1875-1961) taught a raft of the Soviet Union’s best and brightest pianists - from Grigory Ginzberg, Tatiana Nikolayeva, Rosa Tamarkina (whose recordings, recently reissued, attest to a terrific talent), and Samuil Feinberg to Lazar Berman, amongst very many others.
Goldenweiser was a nervous stage performer so the great bulk of his career was spent teaching. That didn’t stop him recording, and amongst his better known discs are those collaborative ones he made with David Oistrakh of the Catoire and Medtner Violin sonatas, the Rachmaninov piano duets and suites with his pupil Ginzburg, and the Cello Sonata with Sviatoslav Knushevitzky. APR has disinterred some solo discs which reflect on his long affection for the music of Grieg, and for Tchaikovsky as well. Bryan Crimp suggests that Goldenweiser made the first complete recording of all the Lyric Pieces and here we have all of Books seven and nine, and four pieces from Book 8.
The Moscow recording is rather shallow and uncompetitive with the excellent level regularly being achieved elsewhere, but it’s perfectly reasonable enough to capture Goldenweiser’s many nuances and indeed some caprices in Grieg. One of the most prominent of these is his rhythmic licence - sample Sylphe from Book 7 - as well as his sense of grave refinement, such as can be found in the Peasants’ Song in Book 8. Wedding-day at Troldhaugen is caught in rather splintery, clangy sound but when Goldenweiser unleashes some splendid chordal playing the sound fortunately doesn’t split further. Despite the hollow sound one can still appreciate the limpid poetry of Goldenweiser’s At Your Feet, from Book 9. Ghostly print through pre-echo haunts the opening of At the Cradle, but this is a small price to pay for such a fine performance.
The Grieg pieces certainly reflect the pianist’s affinities for the composer. He is also dedicated to Tchaikovsky but here the results, perhaps because of the nature of the Album for the Young, are just that little less inspiring. He is at his best in the more melancholy, funereal little tableaux - the music’s serious melancholy seems to appeal to him a little more than its more jovial aspects - and so The Sick Doll and At Church work best of all. We aren’t told, but I wonder whether this wasn’t the first complete recording of the Op.39 set.
The Album has certainly been reissued before, by the Japanese label Triton back in 1996 coupled with works by Arensky. Dante released a swathe of Goldenweiser’s Lyric Pieces but not, so far as I’m aware, these particular volumes, which - if so - makes APR’s a dovetailing operation.
It is, in any case, a fine contribution to Goldenweiser’s case on disc, doing as much as reasonably possible to present these recordings in the best audible light.