Notes and Editorial Reviews
Fantasy on Gershwin’s
Porgy and Bess
ABLAZE AR-00009 (63: 18)
Roughly 30 years ago, pianists Elisabeth and Eugene Pridonoff decided to parlay a successful life partnership into one that is almost as meaningful—a piano duo. Since its founding in 1982, the Pridonoff Duo has
enjoyed an active and successful career in the United States and abroad. When they are not performing, the Pridonoffs teach at the University of Cincinnati College’s Conservatory of Music. For consideration here is what I believe to be the ensemble’s first commercial recording. Putting aside its unintentionally humorous title (
), this is an attractive recording that features technically adroit and musically satisfying performances.
Published relatively late in Liszt’s career, the
is a rewrite of an earlier piece for solo piano, the so-called
. Like much of Liszt’s music of similar vintage, the
is a grandiose score that makes enormous demands on the performers, which are compounded by the inherent difficulty of performing a two-piano work. The Pridonoffs navigate this treacherous work with relative ease, and deliver a finely chiseled performance that does equal justice to the bombastic and poetic elements of Liszt’s music. It is true that, for sheer technical diablerie, the Pridonoffs’s account does not match Martha Argerich and Nelson Freire’s live 1998 performance (originally issued by EMI and now once again available via ArkivMusic’s ArkivCD program). On the other hand, the Pridonoffs are better coordinated and their more noble take on the piece has its own considerable virtues.
The second piece, by Australian-American composer and University of Cincinnati professor Douglas Knehans, is a premiere recording. Written specifically for the Pridonoffs,
is a substantial, three-movement work that reflects the composer’s preoccupation with how “sounds as waves move about the air as we hear them.”
draws on various sonorities offered by the piano while at the same time showcasing the Pridonoffs’s impressive technical abilities. It is an effective piece, whose percussive, incisive outer movements (titled “Drift Echo” and “Torrent”) bookend a hauntingly beautiful slow movement (“Wave”).
The piece that closes the Pridonoffs’s recital is Percy Grainger’s Fantasy on Gershwin’s
Porgy and Bess
. A great admirer of Gershwin, Grainger arranged nine of the opera’s most memorable songs (“My Man’s Gone Now,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” “Clara, Don’t You Be Down-hearted,” “Strawberry Call,” “Summertime,” “Oh, I Can’t Sit Down,” “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” “I Got Plenty o’Nuttin,” and “Oh, Lawd, I’m On My Way”) into an operatic transcription of sorts, whose opening and closing numbers mirror those of the opera. The result is approximately 20 minutes’ worth of pianistic fun, as the Pridonoffs’s recording shows. While there have been other accomplished recordings of Grainger’s fantasy, including those of Katia and Marielle Labèque (on EMI) and Gabriela Montero and Alexander Gurning (also on EMI), the Pridonoffs more than hold their own against the competition.
The quality of the recorded sound is excellent.
FANFARE: Radu A. Lelutiu
Works on This Recording
Cascade, for 2 pianos by Douglas Knehans
The Pridonoff Duo (Piano Duo)
Length: 25 Minutes 29 Secs.
Concerto pathetique, S258/R356
Cascade (version for 2 pianos): I. Drift Echo
Cascade (version for 2 pianos): II. Wave
Cascade (version for 2 pianos): III. Torrent
Fantasy on George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
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