Notes and Editorial Reviews
Souvenir de Dresde,
Romance and Impromptu,
Joseph Banowetz (pn)
NAXOS 8.570942 (75:21)
Recently, I reviewed Joseph Banowetz’s
first volume of music by Anton Rubinstein, declaring myself ripe for more at the end of it. Well, here is Volume 2, a mix of the new (five of the six movements of
Souvenir de Dresde
are world premiere recordings—No. 6 was recorded by Leo Sirota and is available on the Arbiter label—as are the
Romance and Impromptu
No. 1). Volume 1 contained music from 1871–90; this presents works written 1852–94. I also mentioned in my earlier review that only the Melody in F has gained the favor of the catalog, and here in fact it is, played with unaffected simplicity by Banowetz and bringing in tow its lesser-known companion, a Melody in B, a work of supreme delicacy. Rubinstein uses single-line melody to great effect, and Banowetz plays with supreme dignity and maturity.
The disc begins with a work minus opus number. The
was written around 1852, and was composed for a publication named
. The melancholy feel of the work seems entirely Russian. Banowetz ensures that the lightenings of texture and mood register to maximum effect, and that the Lisztian arabesques contain hints of improvisation.
The sublime sweetness of the first movement of
Souvenir de Dresde
(1894) draws one into the work. This movement’s title is, in fact, “Simplicitus.” The music opens out into sequences of roulades (dispatched with remarkable ease by Banowetz). In contrast, the second movement, marked “Appassionata,” uses Brahmsian sonorities to bring a contrastive disquiet. Annotator Joshua Creek suggests that the opening of the third movement, “Novelette,” is pastiche Rameau, and it is easy to hear what he means. The movement is a delight. A light, almost Mendelssohnian Caprice leads to an extended Nocturne where the shadow of Chopin can be clearly felt. Drama is the characteristic of the final Polonaise. Banowitz does not quite project the full sweep of the piece, perhaps.
Dripping, slow descending lines that one might expect to encounter in late Brahms begin the Romance from op. 26. Rubinstein’s offering turns out to be a simple but expressive song without words, its melody exquisitely shaped by Banowetz. The Impromptu makes for effective contrast in its playful, busy nature. Finally,
No. 1 (written around 1856). Each movement is headed by a letter, which when put together spell “LAURA” (Laura Shveykovskaya, a young lady evidently admired by the composer). All five movements are remarkably stress-free, liquid outpourings. Any hints of disquiet in the fifth movement (Con moto) are dismissed in the quasi-improvised final movement, a clear
Lied ohne Worte.
Once again, Banowetz has succeeded in alerting the record buying public of the importance of Anton Rubsinstein’s music while simultaneously providing playing of the utmost clarity and beauty.
FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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