Notes and Editorial Reviews
César Franck's Prelude, Aria et Final seems to belong more to the organ than the piano on account of its sustained linear textures and resonant bass lines better suited to the feet than fingers. As a consequence, the music sounds easier than it actually is to play, or at least to bring off with optimum fluency and clarity. Yukie Nagai, however, transcends the work's challenges with calm assurance. Note the undemonstrative ease with which she shakes out the Finale's daunting, rather unpianistic octaves. The showering filagree in all three movements rarely has sounded so poised and ethereal. I still lean toward Stephen Hough's greater dynamic range and offhanded scintillation, but that takes nothing away from Nagai's impressive
pianism. She also distinguishes herself in the Prelude, Fugue et Variation. Ignaz Friedman's solo piano trasncription stays truer to the original organ text than Harold Bauer's comparatively garish (and more frequently performed) arrangement.
A bonafide curiosity concludes this disc: namely the composer's Violin Sonata, recast for piano alone by Alfred Cortot. Save for a few unavoidable register changes, the piano and violin parts largely remain unchanged. The pianist, of course, must work time and a half in order to effectively shape the violin melody against its swirling accompaniment in the second-movement Allegro. Shorn of the original text's timbral differentiation between instruments, the finale's imitative writing sounds surprisingly cluttered and academic. I miss the dramatic thrust and exultant give and take typical of this work's finest duo practitioners (Perlman/Argerich and Heifetz/Rubinstein, to name a few at the top of my short list). Still, Nagai's suave, strainless reading makes as strong and lasting a case for this interesting (if wrong-headed) transcription as we're likely to find on CD. The sonics are fine but lack the brightness and bloom I've come to expect from the best BIS piano recordings.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less
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