Notes and Editorial Reviews
Petronel Malan (pn)
HÄNSSLER 98.286 (78: 32)
33 Variations on a Theme by Beethoven.
Minuetto von Beethoven.
Fantasia for the Piano after Beethoven’s Celebrated Waltz,
Romance No. 1 after Beethoven’s op. 40/1.
Transcriptions from Beethoven’s op. 59 and op. 130.
Ecossaises after Beethoven
The young South African pianist Petronel Malan is an exciting player; her Blüthner, with its rich, singing tone and glittery high register, is beautifully recorded, and I like the program concept very much. “Transfigured Beethoven” follows Malan’s earlier Hänssler recordings of 19th- and 20th-century transcriptions, arrangements and works inspired by Bach and Mozart, “Transfigured Bach” and “Transfigured Mozart.” If she were to follow up with “Transfigured Schubert” with music by Liszt, Rachmaninoff, and Godowsky (which she probably wouldn’t since her imaginative programming looks beyond the usual suspects), Malan would invite direct comparison with the great Marc-André Hamelin, whose playing hers resembles. That is to say, it is full of color, energy, variety of touch, and the feeling of spontaneity, yet elegant and informed by good taste.
Her program maintains a balance between works of real substance and relative fluff. The opening set of
by Stephen Heller is a major work by a composer best known for his miniature, Schumannesque piano etudes for students. This is a large-scale, free-spirited, and entirely unacademic piece with big technical demands. Based on Beethoven’s 32 Variations in C Minor, WoO 80, it begins with a statement of Beethoven’s short, passacaglia-like theme. Subsequent variations occasionally make reference to Beethoven’s original set, and there are clever references to various other Beethoven works in C Minor: the Fifth Symphony, and the Piano Trio, op. 1/3, as well as a nod to the opening of the Ninth Symphony. It would be fascinating to hear the original Beethoven variations followed by Heller’s set, perhaps comprising the first half of a recital program by Petronel Malan.
is based on the playful third movement from Beethoven’s String Trio, op. 3, and Malan plays it in the spirit of its being a Romantic transcription with far more exaggerated rubato than a string trio would use in the original.
Joachim Raff is represented by his adaptation of the Romance in G for violin and orchestra. Complementing these more relaxed pieces are virtuosic works by Kalkbrenner, Ignaz Friedman, and the little-known Isidor Seiss (1840–1905), a Cologne pedagogue.
I am familiar with the piece used by Kalkbrenner in his
as a well-known waltz in A? by Schubert (D 365/op. 9/2), but the liner notes say that it is listed in the Kinsky catalog of Beethoven’s unpublished works as the
, WoO 14/1. I have also seen the Kalkbrenner listed elsewhere as the
Fantasia for Piano on Diabelli’s Waltz
! Not that it’s terribly important, but my guess is that the waltz may have been a popular tune published by Diabelli, by neither Beethoven nor Schubert, but appropriated by both composers. In any case, Kalkbrenner’s
is really an elaborate set of variations that foreshadow some of the techniques that Schumann used in his “Abegg” Variations and Malan plays them dazzlingly.
The other major offering, besides the Heller variations, is a series of four transcriptions of movements from Beethoven’s string quartets by the short-lived Carl Taussig (1841–1871) whom Liszt considered to be his greatest pupil. Three of these are among Beethoven’s most sublime slow movements—from the first and third “Razumovsky” quartets, and the
from op. 130— and it is fascinating to hear them in these very faithful, unsimplified keyboard transcriptions. (The fourth is the quirky
movement from the second “Razumovsky” quartet, which sounds truly difficult to play.) All but the Heller and Sgambati are world premiere recordings. Highly recommended.
FANFARE: Paul Orgel
Works on This Recording
German Dances by Isidor Seiss
Petronel Malan (Piano)
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