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Albeniz: Iberia Vol 1 - Books 1 & 2 / Yoram Ish-hurwitz

Release Date: 07/14/2009 
Label:  Turtle Records   Catalog #: 75529   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Isaac Albeniz
Performer:  Yoram Ish-Hurwitz
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.


ALBÉNIZ Iberia: Books 1 and 2 Yoram Ish-Hurwitz (pn) TURTLE 75529 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 40:02)

Temptation was strong to dismiss this release out of hand purely on grounds of its shamefully short playing time. A full-priced ($18.99) SACD Read more containing only 40 minutes of music is scandalous in today’s market. The affront is only compounded by the arrogance of Ish-Hurwitz and Turtle Records when one takes into account the availability of the complete Iberia in various mid-priced sets performed by the pianist who has virtually owned this music for a half century, Alicia de Larrocha. That this becomes the first multichannel surround-sound disc of these works that I’m aware of hardly compensates for the chutzpah.

Born in 1968, Yoram Ish-Hurwitz is a Dutch pianist of Israeli origin. Studies at Amsterdam’s Sweelinck Conservatorium were followed up with György Sándor in New York, where Ish-Hurwitz became the first Dutch pianist to graduate from Juilliard. A couple of competition wins set him on his professional career path to concertizing throughout the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Norway, Slovakia, and the U.K. His discography, to date, is fairly scant. Recordings of Schubert, Chopin, Liszt, Mussorgsky, and Prokofiev are cited, but arkivmusic.com, as of this writing, lists only a couple of mega-box sets in which Ish-Hurwitz is but one of many participants.

Composed between 1905 and 1909, Albéniz’s Iberia is generally referred to as a suite for piano, though it’s divided into four separate books, consisting of three pieces each. On a macro level, the work may be seen as four three-movement tone poems, landscape sketches, or picture postcards. On a micro level, however, the music is more evocative or suggestive of the composer’s Spain than it is outright programmatic. Titles like “El puerto,” “Fête-Dieu à Séville,” and “Triana” provide the listener with certain mental constructs, but Albéniz does not allow himself to be guided by extra-musical processes, either literary or graphical. Also, one cannot help but recognize the technical difficulty of these pieces, drawing as they do upon fingering techniques and keyboard figurations that would have been quite new and even more challenging to players of the time than they are today. It’s hard to know the extent to which Debussy and Ravel may have played a role in influencing Albéniz or vice-versa; but there are striking similarities between Iberia , Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit , completed in 1908, and Debussy’s Images (1904–07), all of which are exactly contemporaneous.

Notwithstanding my opening salvo, it would be dishonest of me not to report that Ish-Hurwitz’s playing is mightily impressive. Albéniz’s tricky scores present no obstacles to him as he sails through them undaunted and unperturbed, though I still think de Larrocha is more responsive to the composer’s subtly varied Spanish inflections, which are not generic but carefully tuned to Spain’s distinctive geographical regions.

That said, the co-equal star of this show is the Turtle Records recording, whose engineers have captured Ish-Hurwitz’ Steinway D-274 in amazingly lifelike concert-hall presence. I still struggle with the short timing vs. cost issue, but for audiophiles and those looking for an alternative to the now-beginning-to-show-their-age de Larrocha recordings, Ish-Hurwitz can be recommended.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Suite Iberia, Book 1 by Isaac Albeniz
Performer:  Yoram Ish-Hurwitz (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1904-1906; France 
Suite Iberia, Book 2 by Isaac Albeniz
Performer:  Yoram Ish-Hurwitz (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1904-1906; France 

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