Notes and Editorial Reviews
CORTOT PIANO ARRANGEMENTS
He Yue (pn)
GRAND PIANO 641 (57: 46)
Toccata and Fugue in d,
Keyboard Concerto in f,
BWV 1056: Arioso.
Alfred Cortot is remembered primarily for his pianism and secondarily for his pedagogy. His work as an arranger comes in a distant third, I’d say, as it never even occurred to me that one day someone would release an entire CD devoted to his work in that area. Here it is, though, and it turns out to have been rather a good idea. Cortot’s arrangements, like his pianism, are eloquent and serious, and never showy for the sake of showiness. Rather than trumpeting their difficulty, they mask it behind a modest yet intense devotion to the music itself. This disc’s highlight is the Franck Violin Sonata, here minus the violin, of course. In a work as beautifully composed as this one, it is difficult not to miss the violin’s presence, yet Cortot’s arrangement almost makes one forget about that for long moments at a time. Only in the last movement, in which the timbral differences between the violin and the piano set off Franck’s contrapuntal writing, does one feel the presence of an absence, as it were. Even so, Cortot pulls it off, and while this arrangement has no chance of pushing the original version out of recital halls, it is more than just a forgettable curiosity. His sweetly decorated arrangement of Brahms’s evergreen
is also memorable, as is the slow movement from Bach’s F-Minor Keyboard Concerto. In the Fauré, he condenses four hands into two, and in Bach’s D-minor Toccata and Fugue (the one everybody knows), he adds the work of two feet to that of two hands already busily working away at Bach’s complex counterpoint. Cortot’s arrangement of the latter is less dramatic than the more famous one by Busoni. The Brahms, Chopin, Schubert, and Bach Arioso pieces comprise a collection that Cortot referred as
, although Keith Anderson’s excellent booklet note stops short of explaining the precise significance of that fact.
He Yue is a young Chinese pianist who graduated from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 2012. In other words, he appears to have received an excellent musical education without having attended any of the usual American or European conservatories. (However, among his teachers one finds names such as Peter Frankl, Boris Berman, and Anton Kuerti.) I mention this because a Chinese pianist I recently interviewed commented that the Chinese are very good at teaching technique, but not necessarily good at conveying musicality; yet He Yue’s playing, if sometimes a little bland, is sensitive and appealing. True, his
don’t have quite enough charm, but his playing is never heavy, and he conjures some luminous colors out of his instrument, particularly in the Fauré and the Brahms. The Franck is a finger-buster, but He Yue doesn’t make a big deal out of it, and his reading of the Violin Sonata
violin is very effective, and even exciting. Given the unusual nature of this program, whose contents are much more than adequately presented by the pianist, I’d rate this CD as of more than average interest.
FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
Works on This Recording
Dolly, Op. 56 by Gabriel Fauré
He Yue (Piano)
Written: 1894-1897; France
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