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Franz Peter SCHUBERT (1797-1828)/Ferrucio BUSONI (1866-1924) Complete Transcriptions for Solo Piano Overtures:
E minor, D648 (1819) [7:03];
D, D556 (1817) [6:34];
B flat, D470 (1816) [6:28];
D, D26 (1812) [6:51]; D, D4, “Der Teufel des Hydraulicus” (1812) [3:49] Overtures in the Italian Style (1817):
C, D591 [7:02];
D, D590 (1817) [7:12] Minuets with Trios, D89 (1813) [13:19] German Dances with Trios and Coda, D90 (1813) [13:16]
Marco Vincenzi (piano)
rec. Chiesa di S. Marino di Premanico, Genova, Italy, June, 2016 DYNAMIC CDS7712 [71:24]
Busoni transcribed seven out of a total of nine of Schubert’s Overtures. The booklet notes state, quite correctly in my experience, that these pieces are rarely heard in the concert hall today. I do remember playing one of the horn parts in one (I am pretty sure it was D590, but I may be wrong) in my formative years, but that would have been around 1980-ish. It seems a shame because there is much captivating music here, even heard (relatively) monochromatically on a piano. Vincenzi, in his full and excellent notes, posits that the connection is the “ambiguity between major and minor and the yearning for infinity”. Whatever it was that linked Busoni’s end-of-century transcriptions (1888/1889) to Schubert’s beginning-of-century originals, there is little doubt that the results make for worthwhile auditioning—particularly as they are World Premiere recordings.
Instead of the more usual Steinway, Bösendorfer, Bechstein or Yamaha, Italian pianist Marco Vincenzi opts for a Steingraeber, a Bayreuth-based company established in 1820 in Weimar, moving to Bayreuth in 1852. It is a fine instrument caught in a good recording, beautifully toned.
The ear does take a little while to adjust. The disc starts with the E minor D648, and Vincenzi pinpoints its grandeur. Yes, one hears the reduction, but he makes a powerful case. It is followed by the Rossini-influenced Overture in the Italian style D591, which finds Vincenzi sensitive, tender even, in the slower passages. Its sister piece D590 (they are preformed in that order) actually plumbs great depths; the more dramatic passages are less effective here, however.
The “regular” Overture in D D556 does sound banal initially. There is a suspicion of slightly uneven fingerwork here too; in contrast, Vincenzo is utterly convincing in the Overture D470, finding a Mozartian grace underpinning Schubert’s harmonic language. Single lines speak poignantly.
Lovely to see the two early overtures here. The D major D26 was scored for orchestra with three trombones. The booklet notes posit, credibly, the influence of Gluck here (Iphigenie en Tauride was an influence on the young composer). There are some simply gorgeous lyrical moments; a terrific piece. Finally for the overtures, D4, a short work that indeed does sound like a youthful experiment. No explanation is given in the booklet text as to its subtitle: “Der Teufel als Hydraulicus,” (The Devil as Engineer) is actually the title of the comedy (“Luststpiele mit Gesang”) it was meant to preface. No wonder it froths so much in its later stages. In fairness, the work does sound better in orchestral garb (there is a charming account on Naxos, with the Prague Sinfonia under Christian Benda, 8.570328: see MusicWebreview).
The set of Minuets with Trios D89 was originally for string quartet as Five Minuets and Six Trios. Busoni’s way with this is utterly charming, as is his arrangement of the German Dances (Deutsche Tänze). Vincenzi finds interest via texture even when one might argue Schubert’s muse fails him; the pedal work in particular clearly is carefully considered, and delivers the odd magical result.
Those who enjoy Vincenzi’s playing may wish to investigate his disc of Respighi chamber works, again on Dynamic (see MusicWebreview). To be honest, from the disc cover of the present release I pre-judged. I did not expect such a positive review to be forthcoming. But here it is: Vincenzi provides a most enjoyable way to spend just over an hour.