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Krenek: Piano Works / Khristenko

Krenek / Khristenko
Release Date: 07/31/2012 
Label:  Oehms   Catalog #: 422   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ernst Krenek
Performer:  Stanislav Khristenko
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

KRENEK Piano Sonatas: No. 2, op. 59; No. 3, op. 94/2; No. 7, op. 240; Little Suite, op.13a; Fünf Klavierstücke, op. 39; Echoes from Austria, op.166 Stanislav Khristenko (pn) OEHMS CLASSICS OC 422 (74:16) Read more

As much as I enjoy his music, I should start by saying that Ernst Krenek (1900-1991) will never be a popular composer with most listeners. That is a shame because there is such a variety of styles present in his compositions that there always seems to be at least a few works by the composer that would appeal to just about everyone’s tastes: some moments inspired by jazz, other moments inspired by past composers or by folk-music, passages of simplicity and tunefulness, others of complex atonal counterpoint. Throughout, however, no matter the composition, there always seems to be a vital recognition of the listener. From the obvious traditional idiom of Echoes from Austria , op. 166 (miniature piano works inspired by Austrian folk-tunes, lasting anywhere from a little under a minute to a little over two) to the more complex and densely written third piano sonata (1943), Stanislav Khristenko proves to be an invaluable guide. His acute sense of rhythm in the second piano sonata (1928)—though seen by the composer as a confusing mixture of different styles, a student work of sorts—helps to bring a sense of not only propulsion and movement, but also a sense of the dance to it. This contrasts greatly in his interpretation of the third piano sonata. In Khristenko’s hands it is a rather mellow composition, from its improvisatory-like opening to its sublime and muted closing pages. The Little Suite of 1922 is a strange work: While most of its six movements (Allemande, Sarabande, Gavotte, Waltz, Fugue, Foxtrot) inhabit quite different sound worlds, they come together admirably to form a cohesive whole. It should not be lost on the listener that Krenek wrote the work as a birthday gift for Irene Erdmann (wife of the pianist Eduard Erdmann) in a single night. Above all else, Krenek said that “the suite was meant to be funny.” Khristenko certainly brings that light-hearted character to the fore. The seventh and final piano sonata (1988), written at the ripe old age of 88, shows Krenek to still be an explorer of musical possibilities. I miss the sense of improvisation in the composition’s opening pages—Krenek is careful to notate his intentions through his use of curved arrows, showing the interpreter where to push the tempo and where to pull it back. It is odd that the same pianist who brought a sense of the improvisatory to the aforementioned third sonata, here seems to lack just that quality. It is, however, a rather remarkable performance of a late and austere work. Though it may pose obstacles to the listener, its rewards are numerous. With very fine performances in detailed and spacious sound, this makes a very fine addition to those looking to expand their horizons, or to those who relish this music already. In addition, I would not want to be without Glenn Gould’s inspired performance of the third sonata (available on Sony 52661 along with the Berg Sonata, the Webern Concerto and Variations, and works by Debussy and Ravel). Recommended.

FANFARE: Scott Noriega
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Piano no 2, Op. 59 by Ernst Krenek
Performer:  Stanislav Khristenko (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; Vienna, Austria 
Little Suite for Piano, Op. 13a by Ernst Krenek
Performer:  Stanislav Khristenko (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1922; Vienna, Austria 
Pieces (5) for Piano, Op. 39 by Ernst Krenek
Performer:  Stanislav Khristenko (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; Germany 
Sonata for Piano no 3, Op. 92 no 4 by Ernst Krenek
Performer:  Stanislav Khristenko (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USA 
Echoes from Austria, Op. 166 by Ernst Krenek
Performer:  Stanislav Khristenko (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1958; USA 
Sonata for Piano no 7, Op. 240 by Ernst Krenek
Performer:  Stanislav Khristenko (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1988; USA 

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