Notes and Editorial Reviews
Années de pèlerinage:
. Piano Sonata
Michael Korstick (pn)
cpo 777 478-2 (79:30)
Michael Korstick has made exemplary recordings of Charles Koechlin’s piano music (stifle that yawn!), while James H. North gave his tilt at Reger’s Piano Concerto a near-rave (cpo 777 373,
33:1). He has also garnered approving nods for his Beethoven. And yet … hearing is believing.
This is major artistry. As North noted of the Reger, “right from the opening bars the music grabs our attention, holds it, and satisfies on every count.” Employing terrace dynamics (suggesting two, even three, players) and clangtint ranging from the thunderous (with never a hint of pounding) to the gossamer, Korstick divines the expressive riches of the
set in a way challenging comparison with the likes of Stephen Hough and the young Daniel Barenboim—not always to their advantage.
Chapelle de Guillaume Tell
rises from rumination to whelming grandeur; the water pieces—
Au Lac du Wallenstadt, Au bord d’une source
—are all pristine shimmer and feather-light;
’s Hamlet-like soliloquy is as compelling as I’ve ever heard it; the restless, ungathered geste of
Le Mal du pays
tells persuasively; while the benediction of
Les Cloches de Genève
floats ethereally above purling silver until Korstick pulls the bell ropes, so to speak, in a tremendous tolling and pealing—the louder he plays the more beautiful his tone. Wowed by such resourcefulness, the avid listener will be curious to hear what Korstick does with the Sonata—and he does not disappoint. Tremendous swagger and élan carry one through this banefully familiar soundscape with flash and sizzle aplenty, deftly projected in radiant color, with a multi-voiced eloquence making all new, welcoming, refreshing. One would have to go back to Polina Leschenko’s phenomenal performance (Avanticlassic 1027,
31:4) for comparable alchemy. Ambience is detectable in quieter passages, leaving distance for Korstick’s fullness at climactic moments. Enthusiastically recommended!
FANFARE: Adrian Corleonis
Charm and local color seldom turn up in Michael Korstick's Liszt playing, yet his commanding technique, huge (indeed, sometimes overpowering) dynamic range, and kinetic sweep add up to riveting, large-scale interpretations that fuse Alfred Brendel's probity and Lazar Berman's physicality. Korstick's sheer concentration and imaginative pedaling allow him to stretch the B minor sonata's lyrical sections and Vallée d'Obermann's protracted introduction past the proverbial breaking point while still managing to sustain interest. You can carp about lack of delicacy in the Pastorale or Eglogue, or decry the few dropped beats and incorrect rhythms in the Sonata's first extended octave sequence; but the octaves themselves make quite a galvanic impact, both throughout the sonata and, of course, in Orage. This is big and serious piano playing, well recorded, save for metallic congestion when the music is at its loudest.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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