Notes and Editorial Reviews
Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude. A Faust Symphony:
6 Polish Songs.
Janina Fialkowska (pn)
ATMA 2641 (71:09)
. Polonaise No. 1.
. Ballade No. 2.
Prelude and Fugue in C,
Joseph Moog (pn)
CLAVES 50-1108 (66:45)
2011 marked the 200th anniversary of Franz Liszt’s birthday. While perhaps a few big-name pianists released recordings celebrating the occasion, there was a lot more music still left for exploration: hundreds of works that for the most part have wandered into pianistic oblivion. As the anniversary year is now coming to a close (by the time of this review’s printing, it will be well over), it is all the better to round it out with two very fine recitals showing off Liszt’s many sides—that of composer, and that of transcriber of his own material, other’s music in relatively faithful transcriptions, and free fantasy-like re-imaginings of other composer’s music.
Janina Fialkowska’s recital features numerous staples of the repertoire, some of which have been tackled by many of the great pianists of the last century; one need only think of the numerous performances of the
Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude
No. 6, or the Gounod
transcription by such luminaries as Horowitz, Richter, Bolet, Arrau, or Cherkassky. Fialkowska stands up well to any such comparisons with her intelligently programmed recital, her extraordinary ease of mechanical execution, and most importantly her engaging way with the music. From the powerful opening of the
No. 6, to the simple purity of the transcription of Liszt’s own
movement from his
, to the sparkly passages of some of the Chopin or the Gounod transcriptions, the pianist shows off the full possibilities of this music. Her
is simple and heartfelt, rather than overly pious or sentimental. The melodies gracefully emerge below the shimmering accompanimental figures before reaching ever-higher registers, in which they float above the same figuration. So persuasive is Fialkowska’s rendering of the
movement—due in no small part to Liszt’s ingenious transcription of his own work—that one would never guess that it was originally conceived for anything but a pianistic medium. The brilliant
Waltz, inspired by Gounod’s opera of the same name, makes for a wonderful conclusion. The pianist revels in not only the fireworks that abound in the work, but in the elegance of the waltz itself. Throughout she shows a sense of movement and urgency through such smaller details as careful articulation of the waltz theme—the lifts and pauses in particular, the
at the reprise of the theme, and the sense of balance between lighter and heavier textures. This is spectacular playing.
The young Joseph Moog is certainly a talented pianist as well, though I take issue with certain aspects of his readings here. It is always a pleasure to hear the
, an odd composition composed of several variations written by some of the most famous composers of the day—Carl Czerny, Johann Pixis, Henri Herz, Frederic Chopin, Sigismund Thalberg, and Franz Liszt—which were later fused together by Liszt (who wrote the introduction, the interludes, several variations, and the finale). It is a cross between a fantasy and a theme and variations. Often played by Liszt on his early concert tours, the composition was soon forgotten and only occasionally brought back into the concert hall in the 20th century (one thinks here of Horowitz or Raymond Lewenthal). Moog is a very fine advocate of this work. His fiery temperament suits especially the virtuosic passages in this music perfectly; he delights in the numerous re-imaginings of the march from Bellini’s
, from the three-handed effects in Thalberg’s variation to the scalar
of Herz’s. The composition’s huge ending paves the way for the rest of the recital to come. The Polonaise and Valse-impromptu are given fine performances both, along with the rather simple arrangement of Bach’s C-Major organ prelude and fugue. The B-Minor Ballade, written at the same time as the more famous (or perhaps infamous?) B-Minor Sonata, however, lacks a sense of the poetry the composition exudes: The feeling of tension and resolution, struggle and triumph, fantasy and reality are missing. Things are just a bit too easy here. One need only compare the performances given by Claudio Arrau near the end of his career to understand the kind of depth and understanding the elder gentleman of the piano brought to this music. Moog is still young, and perhaps just a bit too young for this kind of music.
Overall these are two very fine discs. Fialkowska brings elegance, brilliance, and sincerity to this very performance-oriented music. She reveals details that only a mature artist and polished technician can. Moog differs especially in those sections of transition—at once slow and reflective, at others brilliant and transcendent—which for him right now remain grounded. This is not to say that there are not some brilliant moments on his disc. To have any performance of the
is a treat, but to have one of such youthful and ardent energy, performed by a pianist with the mechanical ability to handle all of the difficulties with ease, is especially wonderful. I expect to see great things in the years to come from Moog, especially as the artist matures and gains his own life experiences. These are both very fine Liszt offerings and well worth the attention of those interested in this music.
FANFARE: Scott Noriega
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