The gulf between Messiaen’s
(Ugorski’s last DG offering, 5/94) and this programme of ‘short stories’ – or, more properly, between epic and lyric – is wide indeed. Yet Anatol Ugorski, described in some quarters as a genius, in others as a charlatan (though frankly, you would have to be as deaf as a post to make such a claim), is nothing if not versatile, and all these performances are touched with a special individuality and commitment. Ringing the changes with some aplomb, he starts with a sophisticated surprise, the Mozart/Busoni
Giga, bolero e variazione
. Here, Mozart’s spare and near-Alkanesque
is viewed from a witty angle or prism and is played withRead more great vitality.
Old favourites such as Liszt’s Third
Clair de lune
Rachmaninov Prelude come up as fresh as paint, fascinatingly and responsibly reconsidered so that, remarkably, one seems to be hearing them for the first time. Chopin’s
, too, is as inflammatory in its outer virtuosity as it is lost in wonder in its central reveries, and the Scriabin items emerge with a hypnotic potency and character. True, Ugorski’s tempos for the
Prelude et Nocturne
for the left hand are dangerously slow yet he holds one’s attention throughout. Again, he can be heavy-footed on Weber’s ballroom floor and seem momentarily strenuous in the, ideally, nonchalant glitter of the composer’s
. Certainly I’ve heard more fleet and tonally iridescent performances of all these pieces (Moiseiwitsch at once comes to mind, and never more so than in Weber’s
, a piece he made peculiarly his own), yet Ugorski’s mix of high seriousness and idiosyncrasy is unusual, intriguing and rarely less than engaging. The recordings are excellent.