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Goltz: Complete Works For Piano Solo / Sergei Podobedov

Release Date: 05/06/2008 
Label:  Music & Arts Programs Of America Catalog #: 1210   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Boris GoltzFrédéric Chopin
Performer:  Sergei Podobedov
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 55 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

GOLTZ Scherzo in e. 24 Preludes, op. 2. CHOPIN Nocturnes: in F, op. 15/1; in D?, op. 27/2. Waltz in b, op. 69/2. Polonaise in A?, op. 53 Sergei Podobedov (pn) MUSIC & ARTS 1210 (54:36)

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Boris Goltz (or, more accurately, Gol’ts) was born in 1913 and died during the siege of Leningrad just a few months short of his 28th birthday. His almost exact contemporary, Veniamin Fleishman (who also died at the front), had a powerful advocate in Dmitri Shostakovich, who completed and orchestrated his opera Rothschild’s Violin ; Goltz apparently didn’t have similar support, and he died without leaving much of an imprint. He’s not mentioned by Oxford Music Online (which includes the newest Grove , among other sources); and although Sofronitsky recorded his Scherzo (twice) and one of the Preludes, this recording offers what are plausibly claimed as the first recordings of the other 23 surviving pieces for solo piano, most apparently written in the mid 1930s.

Given the circumstances of his life, it’s easy to let sentiment overcome judgment. As Olga Skoryashenskaya puts it in her notes (offered in both English and Russian, although there are differences between them), “The music of Boris Goltz . . . will remain a symbol of the unrealized dreams of his generation, and all those whose fates are to remain eternally young.” But to my ears, these works, excellent though they are, show more talent than genius. Surely, there’s nothing here to match the individuality or confidence of such competitors as the first version of Mahler’s Das klagende Lied , Korngold’s Die tote Stadt , Shostakovich’s First Symphony, or even (at a lesser level of invention) Scriabin’s Etudes, op. 8, all written when their respective composers were about the same age.

Leaving aside the music’s promise, what does it sound like? The notes assert Goltz’s commitment to “traditional romantic pianism” as represented by Rachmaninoff and Scriabin (the latter an odd choice as a traditionalist!), and there are moments—say, the torrential Sixth Prelude—where that characterization makes sense. But for the most part, the real spirit behind this music is Prokofiev’s—particularly Prokofiev’s when he was in a chipper mood. To be more specific: the music is formally straight-forward and strongly tonal, although with more than a dash of wrong-note spice; the spirit is often both sunny and cheeky; and despite the occasional bad-boy exterior (say, in the rhythmic clashes of No. 18 or the angry toccata-like drive of the Scherzo), one senses the presence of an intuitive lyricist. Yes, the temper sometimes turns manic (say, Prelude No. 3 or Prelude No. 17, which sounds almost like a calliope gone mad). Even then, however, it’s more whimsical than disquieting: if you hear traces of Shostakovich, it’s Shostakovich at his least bitter. Then, too, there are bouts of melancholy (Nos. 4 and 22 are especially poignant) and shots of darkness (say, the violent Prelude No. 20, the spiritual equivalent of the Prelude No. 22 in Chopin’s series). But as you listen to this music, you hear little reflection of Stalinist terror or anxiety over the rise of Germany.

In sum, this is highly polished and winning music—and it’s played by Sergei Podobedov with devotion and stylistic sympathy. On hearing it, you won’t get the wrenching sense of genius cut short you get when you hear Rott’s Symphony or Reubke’s Sonata, but it’s well worth the attention of pianophiles and listeners interested in Soviet art nonetheless, and Music & Arts deserves our thanks for making it available. As for the coupling: it seems odd to fill out the disc with four familiar works by Chopin, rather than with, say, rarities by Goltz’s contemporaries, especially when the chestnuts are played without much color or interpretive flair. Still, the Goltz is the raison d’être here—and for that repertoire, the disc is warmly recommended.

FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
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Works on This Recording

Scherzo for Piano in E minor by Boris Goltz
Performer:  Sergei Podobedov (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Preludes (24), Op. 2 by Boris Goltz
Performer:  Sergei Podobedov (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Nocturnes (3) for Piano, Op. 15: no 1 in F major by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Sergei Podobedov (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1830-1831; Poland 
Nocturnes (2) for Piano, Op. 27: no 2 in D flat major, B 96 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Sergei Podobedov (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1835; Paris, France 
Waltzes (2) for Piano, Op. 69: no 2 in B minor, B 35 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Sergei Podobedov (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1829; Poland 
Polonaise for Piano in A flat major, B 147/Op. 53 "Heroic" by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Sergei Podobedov (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Paris, France 

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