Notes and Editorial Reviews
Années de pélerinage
_Album d’un voyageur,
Les Cloches de G*****.
: Books II and III
Carmel Lowenthal (pn)
BRIDGE 9307 (3 CDs: 178:17)
For an acclaimed artist who has been before the public for 65 years, Jerome Lowenthal’s discography is notably sparse. An album of Liszt paraphrases at the end of the vinyl era—magnificent performances in distressingly poor sound (RCA ARL1-3993,
5:2; see also “Second Time Around,”
11:1)—whetted the appetite for more, though the Sinding miniatures that followed were not quite what one had in mind. The Tchaikovsky piano concertos, with Comissiona and the LSO—including the first version of the B?-Minor—(reissued as Bridge 9301,
33:2), appeared at the end of the 80s and should have given Lowenthal
in the digital age. A decade on, his way with Bartók’s
Out of Doors
and other pieces (ProPiano PPR224515,
21:5) prompted admiring comments from Peter J. Rabinowitz. Contemporary with the present offering, performances of Debussy’s
En Blanc et noir
Visions de l’Amen
(Cedille CR 90000 119,
34: 3) with Ursula Oppens drew high praise from Phillip Scott. Though rare, Lowenthal’s recorded performances are always distinguished, estimable, and different.
Prefacing the years of pilgrimage, Lowenthal gives us
Les Cloches de G*****
, quite another, effusively expansive, piece that provided the germ of the briefer, more straightforward, and far more effective
Les Cloches de Genève
. Beneath Lowenthal’s fingers it is taut and telling—almost viable—in comparison with Leslie Howard’s rambling account (
Album d’un voyager
, Hyperion CDA 66601). Curiously, the recital ends with Lowenthal partnering his daughter, Carmel, in eight of the dozen pieces of
in Liszt’s piano duo arrangement. “They are divided into three books, the first of which, containing simple transcriptions of Christmas carols, is of only moderate interest. Beginning with the second book, however, the music is entirely representative of late-Liszt’s audacity.” Perhaps so, perhaps so ... But why must Liszt always be audacious? When the rapport illuminating this fare is so close, why not have carols, too, jolly and meditative by turns? For those who must have the entire work, similarly attuned performances by Erzsébet Tusa and István Lantos are well worth tracking down (nla Hungaroton HCD 12676-2,
2:3 and 10:4).
, their grandeurs, charms, and miseries loom with prodigious reliability.
has been more tempestuous and
more anguishing—in the latter, Lowenthal is impetuous, almost impatient, less Hamlet than Hotspur—but they’re never less than engaging.
are deftly wonderstruck.
Venezia e Napoli
abound in carnivalesque riot, all dimpled with nuance and rife with color. One readily admits Lowenthal as an avuncular addition to the pantheon of other
which have held their place in one’s affections, if not in the catalog, over the years—Berman’s (Deutsche Grammophon 437 206, the 1977 Melodiya recordings), Ciccolini’s (EMI 67906,
30: 5), Rubackyté’s (Lyrinx LYR 2216,
28:2), Jeffrey Swann’s (Hunt Akademia 2 CDAK 108,
13:6), Gunnar Johansen’s (long-playing Artist Direct 5, 6, 7,
6:4)—when surprises jolt one’s already warm emotional temperature and esteem several notches upward. The “Dante” Sonata, traversing the gamut from lurid coruscations to radiant scintillance, seizes one by the ears, so to speak. And the whole of the
—peremptory, fierce, ecstatic, mordant, limned in plangent clangtint—holds one spellbound. The tolling lamentation of the
, met with radiant if fleeting benediction; the play of “living waters” rippling through
Les Jeux d’eaux
, which had hitherto seemed clamorously dull, galvanized by a cataclysmic reading of tragic intensity; the final, fervently inconclusive,
hovering to the end with
poignance between faith and doubt—ripeness is all, resonant with the stark poetry of old age.
Bridge’s aural perspective is from within the piano, with a reverberant immediacy threatening to mask detail in thunderously bass-heavy passages, though it affords an undeniable visceral satisfaction. What other treasures has Lowenthal in reserve? Enthusiastically recommended.
FANFARE: Adrian Corleonis
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