Notes and Editorial Reviews
Variations. Rondo Capriccioso.
Humoreske. Schlummerlied. Scherz und Spiel. Meistersinger-Paraphrase. Walküre-Paraphrase
Ana-Marija Markovina (pn)
GENUIN 87091 (59:59)
While single-genre composers are not terribly rare, I’m hard-pressed to think of one besides Hugo Wolf who reached the highest echelon of composers as a producer of Lieder only. Granted, one occasionally hears performances of his string quartet and the
, but they are drops in a bucket compared to his presence in the song recital. Rarer still are readings of his piano music, of which there is only a modest amount. There are roughly only three or four other recordings besides this one that cover similar terrain.
I should begin with a comment about this disc’s possible implication that it contains Wolf’s complete output for solo piano. The disc title is
Hugo Wolf: The Piano Works
, so perhaps I’m reading too much into that moniker and the liner notes of Helmut Reuter, who makes note of “fragments” of a sonata that are not included. This sonata has in fact been recorded by John Kersey, and his liner notes state that the manuscript is missing only dynamics and accidentals. Kersey also performs two short works not on Ana-Marija Markovina’s disc, the
. Except for the Wagner paraphrases, all of these were composed in Wolf’s teenage years.
As for the four of these juvenilia on this disc, they are quite impressive considering his age, and deserve to be heard no matter what the circumstances. The Variations sound like a student work with respect to their conservative outlook, roughly reflecting styles from early in the 19th century in both the character of the theme and the proper textbook manner in which he spins the variations. The Rondo Capriccioso and
are rather intimate and gently amusing, qualities Markovina convincingly teases from the scores.
is a tender little gem, foreshadowing the lyrical skill that would become Wolf’s stock in trade.
Scherz Und Spiel
is a brief, jocular exercise.
It is the two Wagner paraphrases that will no doubt interest most listeners, and besides their intrinsic musical value, they give a valuable glimpse into the important 19th-century practice of disseminating operatic themes into the home before the age of recorded music. The
stitches together most of the opera’s most memorable tunes, and Markovina’s lyrical touch suits the material well. The
is a tougher nut to crack, but fans of the source material (who isn’t?) will appreciate another way to bask in this glorious music.
Since these pieces reveal two contrasting sides of the composer, the best way to approach them might be as individual movements rather than a unified disc. Yet they are arresting and valuable, appealing both to pianophiles and lovers of the vocal arts. Kudos to Markovina for presenting this rare survey with uncommon insight.
FANFARE: Michael Cameron
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