Notes and Editorial Reviews
As before, Mordecai Shehori’s New York concert series offers a variety of locations and recorded dates. Volume Four gives us a twenty year plus conspectus of powerful performances that starts with Haydn, ends with probably-not Mozart (‘attributed’ is the kindest word one can come up with) and takes in Schubert, Rachmaninoff and Liszt. It formulates a programme of wide-ranging expressive and technical demands; ones moreover well suited to the stylistic qualities of this most unfairly overlooked of musicians.
He plays the
Arietta of the Haydn with limpid refinement, one worthy of the work’s editor and Shehori’s erstwhile teacher, Mindru Katz. The deftly weighted right hand is a sheer joy
and so too in the variations is the sense of imperious dynamism and control. Nor does Shehori deny Haydn the wit that is so richly embedded here. The few coughs from the Merkin Concert Hall audience hardly detract at all from the sense of thorough absorption in the charm and voluble energy of the work.
Schubert’s Sonata in A D.784 receives a reading of powerful, intensely biting internal contrasts, Shehori stressing the funeral march elements of the first movement with a sense of lowering inevitability: contrast Kempff’s altogether lighter expression. Indeed Shehori seems like a man possessed in this work. Not only does he sculpt the first movement with graphic urgency, which is contrasted with eruptive passionate lyricism, but he makes something monumental of the slow movement. There’s a sense of almost manic abandon here, which carries on the implicit violence of the opening movement into a still greater sense of theatre. With a tumultuous finale – chordal playing of elemental and resounding projection – Shehori launches yet another exploration of the unease, instability and rapid conjunctional tumult embedded in the sonata. In Shehori’s hands this is a work of frightening intensities, savage abruptness and destabilising violence. Others will recoil perhaps from the starkness of the ultimate vision thus revealed – but you cannot doubt the commitment with which Shehori presents it.
The Rachmaninoff selection gives us a rich variety of material. Shehori revels in the rich voicings and fluid tempi of the Melodie in E. The Etude-Tableau is a tempestuous and temperamental affair, whereas there is a nice contrast between the Valse and the Humoresque; this last is subject to some truly outsize playing. The Polichinelle is a delight. And so too in Liszt’s Tarantella which draws from the pianist some eloquent and virtuosic dynamism. The little ‘Mozart’ piece is introduced by Shehori and ends the recital.
This selection of performances has been well recorded; the audience ambience adds to the frisson, I find. Some listeners tend to recoil from these kinds of thing but what else does one expect from live performances? Shehori is on vertiginous form here: his danger meter is high in the Humoresque and in the Schubert and the temperature of these two pieces alone is combustible. Exciting!
Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
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