Rarities of Piano Music at Schloss vor Husum 2016 rec. live, Husum Castle, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, 19-27 August 2016 DANACORDDACOCD789 [78:31]
I have occasionally seen CD’s of these ‘piano events’ at the festival held at the 17th century castle in Husum, but this is the first that I have actually listened to. Like the others in the series, it consists of live recordings of rarities of piano music performed by invited virtuosi.
The works performed are the type that, by and large, would have been written for the sort of piano recital that we rarely get these days – no Beethoven or Schubert sonatas played complete here - just short entertaining pieces, often technically difficult to play.
The disc opens with ‘Les Sylvains’ by Cecile Chaminade performed by Johann Blanchard, a typically tuneful piece, lyrical for the fauns, with alternating figurations depicting woodland sprites. The pianist plays the runs with total dexterity and clarity, and then relaxes gently into Chaminade’s melody. Beautiful!
The next pianist, Severin von Eckhardstein, won the 2003 International Queen Elizabeth competition in Brussels. He plays five works, beginning with Fauré and ending with Wagner (arr. Brassin) via pieces by Robert Casadesus, Anatoly Alexandrov and Julius Reubke. The Casadesus piece is rather lovely, gently wistful and is taken from his 24 preludes Op.5. The ‘Vision’ by Anatoly Alexandrov, influenced by Medtner and Scriabin, is a slow meditation that becomes more agitated, rising to a quite impassioned climax, before slowly subsiding. The Scherzo by Julius Reubke is one of his very few compositions, since he died at the age of 24, and is an effective showpiece, after Liszt, with whom he studied. The Wagner arrangement is by one Louis Brassin, almost forgotten today, despite his piano concertos and operettas. It is suitably imaginative and, of course, exceptionally virtuosic as we are presented with the well-known themes.
Zlata Chochieva is next, playing Liszt and Medtner. She is Russian and has either won or received prizes at a host of competitions. I note from her biography that her 2014 Complete Chopin Etudes was included in Gramophone’s list of 50 greatest Chopin recordings (!!). The Liszt she plays is virtually unknown, not because of lack of quality, far from it, but because of his inveterate habit of revising and then revising again, resulting in works becoming lost in the undergrowth, so to speak. This piece, ‘Hymne de la Nuit’, only surfaced with the publication of a new edition of his (vast number of) works in the 1990’s, and is a revision of one of his Harmonies Poétiques et Réligeuses, later excluded by Liszt from the collection we know under that title today. Poetic and impassioned in the Liszt manner, it is the work that I have returned to most often. It is followed by the almost equally attractive ‘Canzona serenata’ by Medtner, which has grown on me the more I have listened – moving from calm to impassioned and back, it makes me want to listen to more of his music. These two tracks are my favourites on the CD.
The well-known Martin Jones plays two Rachmaninov songs, arranged for solo piano by the American virtuoso Earl Wild. He tried to stay faithful to Rachmaninov’s originals in key and length, but, of course in substituting the piano for the voice in pieces that were already written with piano accompaniment by the greatest Russian pianist (for some, take out the Russian) of the 20th century, he could not but help elaborating things somewhat. So, sumptuous is the word, and I am not going to cavil.
Next, we have some Polish pieces, the first ‘Printemps’ by Moniuszko (arr. Friedman) and then Paderewski’s Nocturne. Both are played by Hubert Rutkowski, another winner of multiple prizes and academic diplomas. The Moniuszko is not a well-known piece outside of Poland, but one could say the same of the rest of his music. As presented here, it starts simply with a walking gait which is slowly elaborated, becoming rather florid. The piece by Paderewski which follows it is far removed from his serious works – Piano Sonata and Symphony – which have been recorded in recent years, but it is probably quite typical of the lighter pieces for which he is mainly remembered. It just lacks the memorability of, say, his Minuet in G Major or his lovely Piano Concerto.
Moving on, a name from the biographies of other composers – Theodor Kirchner. I had heard the name but knew nothing about him; but I must have come across him somewhere, so I suppose that it must be in another’s biography. He was a prominent member of Schumann’s circle and so we might suppose that his music would take its place there, and the supposition would be correct. We have two ‘night pictures’, each lasting 2’40”, the first of which is a gentle beauty, memorable in fact, whilst the second is agitated. Florian Noack does the honours here.
Joseph Moog, much lauded and winner of The Gramophone Young Artist of the Year in 2015 plays Max Reger’s ‘A Dream at the Fireside’ and Tausig’s arrangement of a Pastorale by Scarlatti. Both are gentle works as befits their titles, although I find the Scarlatti/Tausig to be a rather chattery piece.
Two Duos feature next, The Duo Grau/Schumacher give us Busoni’s arrangement of the overture to the Magic Flute and The Duo Mercier/Katsaris an arrangement of Brahms’ quite restrained Humgarian Dance No.11. Both are predictably excellent.
Surprisingly, because he is not a composer that I associate with short, light piano works, Benjamin Britten is performed on the CD by Artem Yasynskyy. They are from Britten’s Op.5 (he was 21) and are quite exuberant – ‘Sailing’ and particularly so, ‘Fun-Fair’.
The disc finishes with Simon Callaghan, whose recording of Sacheverell Coke’s 3rd, 4th and 5th piano concerti is due for release by Hyperion in November. Here he gives us a rather pensive, but beautiful Prelude by Coke, followed by a dazzling performance of Stephen Hough’s arrangement of ‘My Favourite Things’ by Hammerstein.
And so, this 78-minute CD comes to an end. It is a very fine production, with detailed explanatory notes by Peter Grove and a splendid recording. As such it befits a festival going strong in its 30th year.