GODOWSKY ROMANTIC TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ARRANGEMENTS • Carlo Grante (pn) • MUSIC & ARTS 1189 (64:11)
GODOWSKY Contrapuntal Arrangement of Weber’s Invitation to the Dance. Arrangements of Chopin Waltzes: op. 18; op 64/1,3; op. 69/1; op. 70/2,3. Arrangement of Chopin’s Rondo, op. 16. WEBER-GODOWSKY Perpetuum mobile. Read more class="COMPOSER12">SCHUBERT-GODOWSKY Rosamunde: Ballet Music. Moment Musical No. 3. SCHUMANN-GODOWSKY Du bist wie eine Blume. HENSELT-GODOWSKY Si j’étais oiseau. GODARD-GODOWSKY Concerto romantique: Canzonetta
Carlo Grante is, as Adrian Corleonis aptly put it, “one of a small but amazing tribe of supra-virtuosic pianists with a penchant for keyboard arcana”—and both his stunning fingerwork and his devotion to the esoteric are evident in the latest installment (the fifth) of his ongoing Godowsky series for Music & Arts. This is exorbitant music whose intricate textures threaten to entangle the pianist’s fingers and to oversaturate the listener’s ears—but except for a few moments of strain in the most fearsome passages (especially in Godowsky’s elaboration of the Perpetuum mobile from Weber’s Sonata op. 24), Grante delivers it all with a bracing clarity that confirms his status among the virtuoso elite. And even today, when pianists like Marc-André Hamelin, Rian de Waal, Ian Hobson, Burkard Schliessmann, and Grante himself have brought Godowsky’s art almost to the fringes of the repertoire, much of the material here remains uncharted territory. Although Music & Arts makes no “first recording” claims, it seems that the transcriptions of the Henselt, the Godard, and the Chopin Rondo are new to disc (thanks to Donald Manildi of the International Piano Archives at the University of Maryland for research assistance here)—and even the rest of this material remains under-represented in the current catalog. It’s particularly gratifying to have a new collection of all of Godowsky’s inventive (sometimes perversely inventive) Chopin Waltz transcriptions, especially now that Bolet’s recording and Grante’s own previous survey (not quite complete) are apparently out of print.
That said, I’ve sometimes found Grante’s playing too forthright—and that’s often the case here. There’s a lot of sly humor in this music, but it tends to get lost as Grante draws in the dynamic contrasts, hardens the rhythms (there’s not much swing here), mutes the variations in tone of voice (try the arrangement of Chopin’s op. 64/3), and, most important, stamps resolutely through passages where he ought to be savoring the harmonic twists (try, as but one example, the “un poco sostenuto e tranquillo” passage in Invitation to the Dance). The consequence is a brusqueness that, except in the sparkling Henselt transcription, goes against the grain of the repertoire. Godowsky’s version of Chopin’s Waltz, op. 18, for instance, coaxes the original past a series of funhouse mirrors—but in Grante’s hands, there’s little sense of surprise. And even in the least Godowskian effort here, the relatively straightforward Schumann transcription, Grante sometimes fails to grasp the music’s breathing patterns, giving us notes rather than phrases. In the end, it often seems that we’re being lectured where we ought to be schmoozed.
Still, I don’t want to be too critical: if we didn’t have Hamelin as a model of how Godowsky can take wing, Grante would seem less earthbound. Besides that, the technical feats are sufficiently impressive and much of the repertoire is sufficiently rare that the interpretive flaws recede into the background. Good sound too. Reservedly recommended to Godowsky admirers.