Thursday, 27 September 2018

CD Review (The Straits Times, September 2018)

Danacord 799 / *****

The annual festival of piano rarities at the northern German seaside town of Husum grows from strength to strength in its 31st year. An aural snapshot of last year’s festival is vividly captured in this 79-minute-long album. The works of 24 composers and transcribers are heard and it is tantalising to imagine what has not been included here. 

There are complete performances of two works: Carl Czerny’s Variations On A Theme By Carl Rode “La Ricordanza”, with its florid elaborations fluently rendered by Italian pianist Antonio Pompa-Baldi, and Russian Dmitri Blagoy’s three-movement Fairy Tale Sonata, lovingly related by Vincenzo Maltempo, another Italian. Both play up to 12 minutes each, and are the longest tracks.

From celebrated French-Canadian virtuoso Marc-André Hamelin comes his completion of an unpublished Chopin-Godowsky Etude (Nouvelle Etude No.1), never previously recorded, and his own Toccata On L’Homme Armé, his thorny set-piece written for the 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. 

There are short tracks, excerpts from works by Gabriel Dupont, Leonid Desyatnikov, Fikret Amirov, Abram Chasins and Paul Hindemith, not exactly household names. This year’s highlights also have a popular slant with transcriptions of songs by Poulenc (Les Chemins D’Amour), Grainger (Londonderry Air), Donizetti (Casta Diva from Norma) and John Green (Body And Soul). 

The other pianists include Daniel Berman, Nadezhda Vlaeva, Lukas Geniusas, Emile Naoumoff, Satu Paavola and Misha Dacic, all of whom are compelling artists. The enjoyment quotient is very high, and the recorded sound close to excellent.   

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