Notes and Editorial Reviews
Volume 6 of Marco Polo's Leopold Godowsky cycle focuses on Schubert, or rather Godowsky's rewriting Schubert to suit his pianocentric agenda. Liszt's transcriptions of Schubert songs, for example, generally leave the original melodies and harmonies intact, and no matter how garish the textures, you sense that Schubert rather than Liszt comes first. By contrast, Godowsky seems more patronizing as a transcriber of Schubert. He can't resist adding a counterline here, retouching a harmonic progression there, and all too often missing Schubert's point. He progressively elaborates Gute Nacht's strophic verses to the point where Schubert's minor to major key change for the last verse seems immaterial rather than the masterstroke we perceive in the
original, unadorned voice/piano setting. The Litanei may start out as a simple lullaby, but it gradually works its way up to the proverbial Corny Concerto (and waking the baby in the process!).
Whatever your response to this repertoire, Konstantin Scherbakov resists the easy temptation to rubato-ize and poke around these scores, playing them straight and heeding all of the composer's carefully delineated voice leadings and inner dynamics. His firm, sharply accented traversal of the bowdlerized F minor Moment Musical, for instance, may convince you more than Shura Cherkassky's cream-coated phrasing, although both approaches hold validity. Scherbakov projects the Passacaglia's cumulative trajectory with headlong sobriety and shows no strain as he decisively grasps bushels of big chords and passagework. Ultimately the music gains more from Marc-André Hamelin's more varied tonal palette and discreet, internalized rubato: you could say that he's a relaxed Rubinstein to Scherbakov's tenser Serkin. You might wish for warmer, more resonant sonics too. All told, this is another valuable addition to Scherbakov's ongoing Godowsky cycle.
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Rosamunde, D 797/Op. 26: Ballet music by Franz Schubert
Konstantin Scherbakov (Piano)
Written: 1823; Vienna, Austria
Notes: Arranged: Leopold Godowsky (1923)
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