Wednesday, 6 September 2017

CD Review (The Straits Times, September 2017)

Danacord 789 / *****

Last year, the piano connoisseurs' festival in the North German seaside town of Husum founded by German pianist Peter Froundjian marked its 30th edition with 12 concerts featuring 14 pianists and a string quartet. This disc of highlights is the embodiment and distillation of its philosophy of showcasing rare Romantic repertoire, piano transcriptions and unusual encores. 

While Earl Wild's transcriptions of Rachmaninov songs, Stephen Hough's witty take on My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music, and Brahms' Hungarian Dance No.11 should no longer be considered rarities, they receive lovely performances by Martin Jones, Simon Callaghan, and the duo of Cyprien Katsaris and Helene Mercier respectively.

However, there is a lot to discover in works by Alexandrov, Casadesus, Chaminade, Coke, Kirchner, Moniuszko and Reubke, just to relive some forgotten names. The longest track at nearly 7 minutes is reserved for Liszt's Hymne de la nuit, a gem of rare introspection discarded from his cycle Harmonies poetiques et religeuses. Here, young Russian pianist Zlata Chochieva exposes the lie that Liszt was a vulgarian. 

Max Reger's Larghetto from Dreams at the Fireplace is a tribute to Chopin's Berceuse, shaped with much beauty by Joseph Moog. Herbert Rutkowski playing compatriot Paderewski's Nocturne is another cherished moment, while the Grau/Schumacher duo make light work of Busoni's arrangement of Mozart's The Magic Flute Overture. Here is delightful listening from a unique festival that goes from strength to strength.    

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