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Wagner Idyll / Vestard Shimkus


Release Date: 11/27/2012 
Label:  Ars Produktion   Catalog #: 38123   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Richard WagnerFranz Liszt
Performer:  Vestard Shimkus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mixed 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



WAGNER-SHIMKUS Isolde’s Liebestod. WAGNER Fantasia in f?, WWV 22. WAGNER-LISZT Spinnerlied. WAGNER-GOULD Siegfried Idyll Vestard Shimkus (pn) ARS PRODUKTION 38 123 (SACD: 67:46)


One of the most rewarding aspects of the recording medium is the ability to deliver a different type of Read more program to an audience. Oftentimes this is not necessarily a program which one would try in front of a live audience for any number of reasons. So what of Wagner and the piano here? Interestingly Vestard Shimkus, first-prize winner of both the Maria Canals International Piano Competition (Spain, 2009) and the Bad Kissingen KlavierOlympiade International Piano Competition (Germany, 2007), chooses to focus on the composer through both original works and transcriptions. The transcription of Isolde’s Liebestod featured here was transcribed by the pianist for this very recording; and what an interesting transcription it turns out to be. The opening sounds as though it were transcribed by Glenn Gould with its contrapuntal intricacies, the later sections sounding more like Franz Liszt with its greater dependence on grand romantic gestures. Shimkus relates listening over and over again to an orchestral version while preparing his version, letting the sound of what he heard be the inspiration rather than the score. In this he was highly successful. The F?-Minor Fantasia—by far the longest piece on this disc—is a student work (composed by Wagner in 1831) of epic proportions. By its sound alone it wants to be a masterpiece in the vein of late Beethoven (the recitative sections followed by the melody accompanied by triplet chords reminds one of Beethoven’s op. 110). It is not. Had Wagner trimmed the piece to roughly half its size (in this recording the piece lasts almost 28:00), it might have found a few more proponents. But this is not top-tier Wagner. This is Wagner learning how to write by copying the best. But the work turns out to be too repetitive, too meandering, with no real sense of purpose. It is, however, dramatic. One could almost imagine a story being told through its numerous and oft-changing sections. And Shimkus plays this work about as well as anyone can. The following Spinnerlied is a well-known transcription: Everyone, from Earl Wild, Jorge Bolet, and Leslie Howard to Daniel Barenboim, Jerome Lowenthal, and Louis Kentner, has recorded the work. Shimkus is certainly technically up to the task. He easily handles the numerous obstacles which are put before him, yet there is a fussiness to the playing, a prettifying of the piece which is completely unnecessary. In general “cute” is not a word which I want to come to mind when listening to Wagner. The final transcription included here, the Wagner-Gould Siegfried Idyll , is a fascinating one in that Gould sought (as per usual for him) to highlight the contrapuntal nature of this piece of music. He also left us with a wonderful recording of the transcription: It is about as slow as one could play it without losing the overarching line, but beautifully shaded, lush, and spirited. According to the program notes here, Shimkus takes a tempo which is “slightly faster than the 23:31 that Gould took.” That’s interesting as Shimkus’s timing comes in at 24:07. The pianist throughout maintains a beautiful sense of movement and tonal color, yet what disappointed most was that rather than recapturing the spirit of the Gould recording, Shimkus tried to emulate and reproduce it. But why? Shimkus seems such a profoundly individual and thinking musician himself that I would have expected his own interpretation to shine through. Perhaps it comes back to that inspiration from sound in his own aforementioned transcription? Regardless of this, that, or the other, this is a fine disc in excellent SACD sound. Will I be pulling this out for the Wagner Fantasia? Perhaps in another 10 years or so. But the pianist’s original transcription of the Liebestod is worth the price of admission.


FANFARE: Scott Noriega
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Works on This Recording

1.
Tristan und Isolde, WWV 90: Isolde's Liebestod by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Vestard Shimkus (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857-1859; Germany 
Venue:  Immanuelskirche Wuppertal 
Length: 8 Minutes 55 Secs. 
2.
Fantasia for Piano in F sharp minor, Op. 3 by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Vestard Shimkus (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Venue:  Immanuelskirche Wuppertal 
Length: 27 Minutes 47 Secs. 
3.
Spinnerlied from Der fliegende Holländer, transcription for piano (after Wagner), S. 440 (LW A204) by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Vestard Shimkus (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1860; Germany 
Venue:  Immanuelskirche Wuppertal 
Length: 6 Minutes 54 Secs. 
4.
Siegfried Idyll by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Vestard Shimkus (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1870; Germany 
Venue:  Immanuelskirche Wuppertal 
Length: 24 Minutes 7 Secs. 

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