Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonata in A,
Piano Sonata in D,
Hommage à Schubert.
Idyll und Abgrund
Benjamin Hochman (pn)
AVIE 2281 (71:57)
There was a convention among music critics, not used much these days, to refer to pianists as “naturals” for a given
composer. Schnabel/Beethoven, Rubinstein/Chopin, Gieseking/Debussy, and so on. I think the term applies to Benjamin Hochman’s Schubert playing. He is aware, though not precious, about his particular bond to this music, as he refers, in his eloquent program notes, to the “striking dichotomy between lyricism and drama” in the two sonatas he presents here. The young Israeli-born artist, a recently graduated student of Claude Frank and Richard Goode at Curtis, has an especially fine way with the gentle side of Schubert, with a carefully wrought tonality and vocal rhythmic pacing that recalls Kempff. His tempos are relaxed, and his phrasing has a flexibility that points the music forward, rather than backward, in a musical historical sense.
Hochman complements the two Schubert sonatas with new music that is inspired by the Viennese master. György Kurtág, who has also written haunting music based on Bach, here presents a whisper of a piece, about a minute long, that sounds like a dreamy vision of a Schubert slow movement, perhaps even that of the Sonata in A, that Hochman plays, which it mimics both rhythmically and melodically. Jorg Widmann is scarcely less concise in his six pieces comprising
Idyll and Abyss
, which, with its alternating ebullience and inwardness, seems to tie Schubert to Schumann. I prefer the Webern-like precision of the Kurtág piece, but Widmann certainly conveys a deep and sincere love of Schubert.
I am sure that certain music lovers will object to the inclusion of contemporary music on this program, but Hochman is making a point, namely, that Schubert is as contemporary—timeless, really—in his ability to touch us to the depths. Those so inclined will miss the opportunity to hear a very promising new artist, but I am quite sure there will be many other chances.
FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
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