Notes and Editorial Reviews
Clarity and subtlety in delightfully eloquent interpretations
The multi-levelled labyrinths of Leopold Godowsky’s piano-writing have long been second nature to Marc-André Hamelin. Listeners familiar with earlier Hamelin Hyperion Godowsky releases can testify to the pianist’s cultured musicianship, extraordinary keyboard proficiency and unflappable tonal control. His key assets include the most together, impeccably voiced chords in the business, plus octaves, trills and rapid leaps that remain effortlessly even and focused, regardless of tempo.
All of this comes into delightful play over the course of the three big Strauss Symphonic
Metamorphoses. Countless inner voices and contrapuntal rejoinders abound in these works, and Hamelin makes them audible and clear without resorting to the pianistic equivalent of red-ink underlining or pop-up windows. Furthermore, Hamelin is a seasoned and subtle orchestrator at the piano; notice how he achieves such eloquent shading of simultaneous legato and detached phrases with no more help from the sustain pedal than is necessary.
To be sure, there are other valid ways to interpret Strauss/Godowsky. For example, David Saperton’s 1952 mono recordings of the Künsterleben and Fledermaus paraphrases convey more linear urgency and harmonic tension by virtue of slightly faster tempi, more pronounced textural contrast between foreground and background material, and sharper accents. One also could argue that Godowsky’s pinpoint tempo modifications throughout Wein, Weib und Gesang might benefit from stronger characterisation, in the manner of Shura Cherkassky’s admittedly more capricious Decca recording, although Hamelin eschews the older pianist’s cuts; in fact, Hamelin plays all three Metamorphoses complete, as written. As it happens, the less demanding shorter selections from Walzermasken, Triakontameron and The Last Waltz inspire some of Hamelin’s most poetic, lyrically inspired playing on disc. All told, a stellar achievement, graced by Hyperion’s close-up yet ample engineering, plus Gramophone contributor and Godowsky biographer Jeremy Nicholas’s thoroughly informative and penetrating annotations.
-- Jed Distler, Gramophone [9/2008]
Works on This Recording
Der letzte Walzer: Act I Waltz by Oscar Straus
Marc-André Hamelin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1920; Austria
Length: 2 Minutes 34 Secs.
Notes: Arranger: Leopold Godowsky.
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