Notes and Editorial Reviews
One of the unsung giants of our time.
The third volume of Mordecai Shehori’s ongoing New York recital series is now with us. The recitals range from 1979 to 1987. Most were recorded at the usual venue, the Merkin Concert Hall, but three things were taped at the 92nd Street Y.
Shehori’s Chopin is usually special. His B minor Scherzo is full of fancy and colour, long on contrasts, full of delicacy and gravity and palpable depth of feeling. There’s no artifice in this reading and there are no extraneous gestures and rhetorical effects; it’s entirely musical, musicianship devoted entirely to the service of the text, none of which excludes a most terrific and brilliant conclusion. The vein of rich poetry, of
which Shehori is a master, can be felt in his Berceuse in D flat major. Once again he ensures that architectural concerns are uppermost, and that the music flows within the parameters he has established. It’s a reading of the utmost beauty of tone.
There is a sequence of Schubert-Liszt transcriptions. Some of these have been associated on disc, at various times, with titans such as Petri and Horowitz amongst many others. Gretchen am Spinrade was certainly a Petri speciality and he played it with a strong series of dynamics and an almost vertical sense in terms of voicings. Shehori is richer and warmer, more chordally resonant, and spins out the song with enveloping sensitivity. Erlkönig finds Shehori on superb form – virtuosic and atmospheric. Soirées de Vienne is another piece that Petri recorded – but then so did Horowitz, Rosenthal and de Greef (in a truncated version). Shehori plays quite pungently here – and this is the one occasion where I think the recording level is against him; it imparts a touch of hardness to his tone that one doesn’t notice in his other performances. Of course there are the more refined and delicate moments where one can appreciate his tone in a more natural way though no one has quite matched Rosenthal’s grandeur and capricious rubati here.
Shehori’s own Bach arrangement from the familiar Keyboard Concerto is solemn, slow with a chorale texture – and with great gravity implicit in those bass extensions. The brace of Liszt pieces contains an excellent Consolation No.3. Shehori plays it at a Horowitz tempo but doesn’t of course seek to replicate Horowitz’s very personal rubatos. The Mephisto Waltz No.1 is a cracking display of virtuosity, control and eloquence and it leads onto the disc’s finale, Rosenthal’s Carnaval de Vienne, a Straussian confection which Shehori plays with remarkable virtuosity and admirable command – though maybe the composer teased out a greater sense of playfulness in his more technically fallible 1935 recording.
Once again the Shehori recitals prove a seedbed of poetry and digital control. He balances both these facets with accustomed eloquence, allowing the music to speak with naturalness, shorn of interventions, crudities and gaucherie. If you’re lucky enough to see him advertised in concert, don’t miss the chance to hear Shehori, one of the unsung giants of our time.
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
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