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Threads / Molly Morkoski

Morkoski / Beethoven / Wuorinen / Prokofiev
Release Date: 03/13/2012 
Label:  Albany Records   Catalog #: 1342  
Composer:  Ludwig van BeethovenCharles WuorinenFrédéric ChopinLouis Andriessen,   ... 
Performer:  Molly Morkoski
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

THREADS Molly Morkoski (pn) ALBANY 1342 (58:55)

BEETHOVEN 6 Bagatelles, op. 126. WUORINEN Blue Bamboula. CHOPIN Ballade No. 4. ANDRIESSEN Image de Moreau. ADAMS China Gates. Read more class="COMPOSER12">PROKOFIEV Piano Sonata No. 3

I first encountered pianist Molly Morkoski on a recording featuring the music of Andrew Waggoner, which I reviewed in Fanfare 35:4. Although she played a relatively small part on that disc, it was a part important enough to make quite an impression on me. For that reason, I was delighted when I received this CD, which marks this young artist’s instrumental debut. My high expectations were fully met—this CD is a winner.

Notwithstanding the title of her recording, there is no common thematic thread that unifies the works Morkoski selected for inclusion. Instead, as she explains in the accompanying notes, she chose these eclectic works because she associates each of them with an important moment of her musical education and development. While tailoring a piano recital in this fashion may seem odd and, indeed, Morkoski’s decision to skip to and fro between classics and contemporary works may look questionable, she manages to pull it off. In large part, this is owed to the fact that Morkoski plays everything very well.

In the deceptively easy Bagatelles, her playing is beyond reproach—listen to the sparkling runs of the Andante con moto , to the perfectly controlled frenzy of the Allegro and Presto , or the glowing trills and hushed ending of the Andante . Perhaps the tempo for the Quasi Allegretto is a touch too fast—my all-time favorite pianist in these enigmatic works, Wilhelm Kempff, manages to find some extra magic with a slower and more flexible tempo—but when all is said and done Morkoski’s reading of the Bagatelles is one of the most persuasive I have come across.

The pianist’s expertise with contemporary music is put to the test in Charles Wuorinen’s Blue Bamboula , Louis Andriessen’s toccata, and John Adams’s China Gates , and perhaps predictably she does extremely well with these scores. In the Wuorinen, Morkoski plays just as well as this gnarly work’s dedicatee, Ursula Oppens. In the Adams work, I actually find Morkoski to be more persuasive than Nicolas Hodges, the only other recording I have in my collection. The Andriessen work—a charming cross between Ravel’s and Prokofiev’s toccatas, with a twist of Stravinsky—is new to me. While I have no basis to compare Morkoski with other artists here, I can hardly imagine this work played better.

The remaining two works are equally successful, though Morkoski’s introspective take on the Chopin ballade may not be immediately appealing to some. Similarly, in the Prokofiev sonata, I occasionally miss Alexis Weissenberg’s daredevil approach. To be sure, however, Morkoski’s more dignified approach is equally valid and has its own appeal.

The quality of the recorded sound is superlative, as is Morkoski’s expertly prepared Steinway piano. The recording obviously benefits from the touch of the legendary Max Wilcox, who is credited as a producer.

In sum, a very interesting and satisfying release that is worth adding to your collection.

FANFARE: Radu A. Lelutiu
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Works on This Recording

Bagatelles (6) for Piano, Op. 126 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Molly Morkoski (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1824; Vienna, Austria 
Blue Bamboula by Charles Wuorinen
Performer:  Molly Morkoski (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1980; USA 
Ballade for Piano no 4 in F minor, B 146/Op. 52 by Frédéric Chopin
Performer:  Molly Morkoski (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1842; Paris, France 
Image de Moreau: Toccata by Louis Andriessen
Performer:  Molly Morkoski (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Netherlands 
China Gates by John Adams
Performer:  Molly Morkoski (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1977; USA 
Sonata for Piano no 3 in A minor, Op. 28 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Molly Morkoski (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1907/1917; Russia 

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