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Scharwenka: Complete Piano Concertos / Markovich

Scharwenka
Release Date: 04/29/2014 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 10814   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz Xaver Scharwenka
Performer:  Alexander Markovich
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



F. X. SCHARWENKA Piano Concertos Nos. 1–4 Alexander Markovich (pn); Neeme Järvi, cond; Estonian Natl SO CHANDOS 10814 (2 CDs: 140:10)


The current Scharwenka concerto discography is thin but strong, with sturdy representations of the Second and Third (by Seta Tanyel, Fanfare 27: 3) supported on either end by recordings that can only be called exceptional: Wild (19:4 and 31:3) and Hamelin (29:5) in the First, Hough in the Fourth (19:3). Still, even Read more someone who has already gathered up all four concertos will want to explore these new recordings by Alexander Markovich, plausibly advertised as the first complete cycle by a single pianist (Laurence Jeanningros’s promising edition, 25:3, apparently stalled mid-way through).


You don’t need to listen very long to get a sense of Markovich’s interpretive persona. The pianist surges into the First with a dramatic and rhythmically flexible heart-on-the-sleeve expressivity (there’s nothing very “poco” about his poco ritenuto as he moves back to what’s supposed to be the Tempo Primo in the 9th measure of rehearsal A); and he maintains the same intent and full-bodied outlook throughout all four concertos. His highly wrought approach is supported by his rich, bass-centered sound (strongly tilted toward the darker end of the spectrum) and by his rounded articulation (which means that his accents are more liable to be marked by their weight rather than their edge). His approach is supported, as well, by his technical security: passagework is accurate and he’s got plenty of stentorian power in the climaxes (listen, for instance, to the swell of sound on the big chords in the Third’s first-movement cadenza).


No surprise, then, that in Markovich’s hands, the music strives more than it springs, revealing more valor rather than virtuoso ditziness, more Sturm und Drang than sunshine. In Wild’s dapper First, it’s sometimes possible to forget that the concerto (like its siblings) is in a minor key; not so with Markovich, who stresses its kinship to Brahms (especially the Brahms of the First Concerto) rather than its stylistic overlap with Moszkowski. Similarly, while Hough can intoxicate us with the quirky rhythmic play of the Fourth’s tarantella-infected finale, Markovich pushes through with less wit and more vehemence.


I don’t mean to say that Markovich is incapable of savoring the music—he’s attuned to the luxuriance of the opening of the Adagio of the Second, and the melodic succulence of the second movement of the Third comes across vividly. But I think it’s fair to say that he’s emphatic rather than agile. This is not the place to go for Lisztian sparkle in the filigree; and while his phrasing always has a clear rhetorical point, his tendency to stress the barlines and the relative lack of air to his playing does make Scharwenka seem more strenuous than he does in the nimbler hands of Wild, Hamelin, and Hough.


Still, given his interpretive premises, Markovich makes a persuasive case for this very underrated music; and he gets sympathetic support from Järvi, the orchestra, and Chandos’s engineers. Strongly recommended.


FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Piano no 4 in F minor, Op. 82 by Franz Xaver Scharwenka
Performer:  Alexander Markovich (Piano)
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1908; Germany 
2.
Concerto for Piano no 3 in C sharp minor, Op. 80 by Franz Xaver Scharwenka
Performer:  Alexander Markovich (Piano)
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1898; Poland 
3.
Concerto for Piano no 2 in C minor, Op. 56 by Franz Xaver Scharwenka
Performer:  Alexander Markovich (Piano)
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1881; Poland 
4.
Concerto for Piano no 1 in B flat minor, Op. 32 by Franz Xaver Scharwenka
Performer:  Alexander Markovich (Piano)
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Poland 

Sound Samples

Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 32: I. Allegro patetico
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 32: II. Scherzo: Allegro assai
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 32: III. Allegro non tanto
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 56: I. Allegro
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 56: II. Adagio
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 56: III. Allegro non troppo
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 80: I. Maestoso
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 80: II. Adagio -
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 80: II. Allegro non troppo
Piano Concerto No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 82: I. Allegro patetico
Piano Concerto No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 82: II. Intermezzo: Allegretto molto tranquillo
Piano Concerto No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 82: III. Lento, mesto -
Piano Concerto No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 82: IV. Allegro con fuoco

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