Wednesday, 30 November 2016

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, November 2016)

Vol.1 Danacord 671 / *****
Vol.2 Danacord 687 / *****

These are not new recordings, but no serious lover of piano music should be without these discs. Dutch pianist Frederic Meinders, who is 70 this year, follows in the illustrious tradition of Liszt, Busoni, Rachmaninov, Leopold Godowsky and Earl Wild in the hallowed art of transcription. 

To date, he has written close to 600 arrangements of a bewildering array of works for the solo piano, many of which are songs, Their vocal lines do not merely get absorbed into piano textures but are often transformed to something else quite different.

The first volume has groups of lieder by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Mahler, but no way does he imitate Liszt. For example, his version of Schubert's Serenade (from Schwanengesang) is for left hand alone. In the Mahler songs, he incorporates denser orchestral textures but the melody never gets overwhelmed. 

The second volume includes the entire 16 songs from Schumann's Dichterliebe (Poet's Love), beautifully rendered, and the first piece of Kinderszenen (Scenes From Childhood), again arranged for the left hand. His Chopin transcriptions, sometimes combining themes from several pieces in a contrapuntal mash-up, have to be heard to be believed. The single Etude (Op.25 No.7) which Godowsky declined to rearrange has found glorious fruition in Meinders' hands. Here is pianism at its most inspired.    

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