Notes and Editorial Reviews
Gabriel Chodos (pn)
FLEUR DE SON 58017 (59:27)
I was excited, a few years ago, to become acquainted with this pianist’s work on CD. Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms are his bread and butter, and he approaches them not as a competition-winning showman, but as a thoughtful, intelligent, and seasoned academic. Currently, he teaches at the New England Conservatory, and his curriculum vitae lists a number of other institutions at which he has given master classes.
If you like Brendel and Rudolf Serkin, you’ll probably like Chodos’s traversal of Beethoven’s monumental and mercurial set of 33 variations on Anton Diabelli’s “cobbler’s patch” of a waltz. He shares their sobriety and their intellectual depth, as well as their avoidance of self-conscious display. Chodos was a pupil of Aube Tzerko, who in turn studied with Schnabel, and one can hear a bit of Schnabel in these performances as well, although Chodos’s fingers are more dependable than Schnabel’s.
Chodos’s booklet note gives us some insight into his interpretation of this work: “It seems to me that the variation form is a metaphor of the life of an individual human being; there is constant change, but the core identity remains the same. After seemingly innumerable transformations and vicissitudes, Diabelli’s bumptious and rather vulgar waltz is finally transformed into an elegant and gracious minuet.” Chodos also describes the almost offhand ending of the work in terms of its “ambiguity,” in contrast to the nearly contemporaneous Piano Sonata No. 32, which ends in “glorious transcendence.” Even so, there’s plenty of “glorious transcendence” in Chodos’s playing of this final variation, and as this work comes to an end, one feels deeply satisfied about the journey upon which Chodos has taken us.
Chodos does not unduly emphasize the proto-boogie woogie of the 16th variation (
), nor does he revel in technique for technique’s sake in the cascading notes of 19th (
). The 31st variation (
Largo, molto espressivo
) is played with the same kind of straightforward emotional breadth that one associates with the so-called “Black Pearl” variation in Bach’s
. One might call this a “middle-of-the-road” set of the
, but that is not meant to suggest routine or dullness. Chodos, like the aforementioned pianists, trusts Beethoven, and does not attempt to impose too much of his own personality on the music. This recording probably will stand the test of time.
This disc was recorded at the New England Conservatory early in 2012, and the sound, like the pianism, is honest and free of gimmickry.
FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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