Notes and Editorial Reviews
Somewhere in my reading of artist notices and reviews, I was sure I had come across Gabriel Chodos’s name before, but this new CD was my first actual encounter with his playing. To cut to the chase, this is one of the finest solo piano discs I’ve heard in some time. Even if I hadn’t cared for some of Chodos’s interpretive choices—decidedly not the case—as a recording it can serve as an exemplar of modern sound reproduction technology and expert engineering. Credit for the spellbinding presence and realism must go to engineer Frank Cunningham, but I also suspect that in no small measure credit is also due to the acoustical properties of the New England Conservatory of Music’s Jordan Hall, where these performances were recorded in January of
2003. It feels like you’re sitting right beside Chodos, turning pages for him.
Gabriel Chodos is currently chair of the piano department at the New England Conservatory and a member of the artist faculty at the Aspen Music Festival. But these are only the most recent distinctions in a career that has involved appearances throughout the US, Europe, Israel, and Japan, a Fulbright Scholarship, Martha Baird Rockefeller grants, and an NEA Solo Recitalist Grant. At the Rutgers Summerfest, Chautauqua Festival, the Hochschule für Musik in Leipzig, and the Toho Gakuen School of Music and Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo, Chodos has given master classes and lecture demonstrations. His performances of works by Schubert, Chopin, and Brahms have been broadcast nationwide by National Public Radio.
Not since Sviatoslav Richter am I aware of another pianist who has dared to play Schubert’s great G-Major Sonata at the slow tempo Chodos takes for the first movement—21:55. “In Richter’s hands,” Fanfare’s James North observed, “the long Fantasy that opens the G-Major Sonata seems to float in a timeless space, its occasional outbursts shockingly grim.” Much the same, I think, can be said of Chodos’s reading. Hearing it is like intruding upon some surreal dreamscape that holds you rapt and riveted. To sustain the mood, as Chodos does, takes enormous concentration. Once again, the amazingly quiet ambience of the recording captures every half-light and whispered voice. Truly a stunning achievement.
There is no questioning Chodos’s emotional engagement. As with the Schubert, he probes and penetrates Brahms’s most intimate utterances with sureness of fingering and depth of understanding. But by no means are all of the eight pieces that make up the Klavierstücke, op. 76, introspective or ruminative. The Capriccio in C sharp Minor is a virtuoso showpiece, and Chodos demonstrates what a powerhouse he can be when the music requires it.
This is a gorgeous disc from beginning to end. I cannot recommend it too highly.
Jerry Dubins, FANFARE
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