Alexander Goldenweiser = TCHAIKOVSKY: Album for the Young, Op. 39; GRIEG: Lyric Pieces, Op. 62, Op. 65, Op. 68 – Alexander Goldenweiser, piano – APR

by | Nov 23, 2008 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Alexander Goldenweiser, piano = TCHAIKOVSKY: Album for the Young, Op. 39; GRIEG: Lyric Pieces, Op. 62, Op. 65, Op. 68 – Alexander Goldenweiser

APR 5661, 71:35 [Distrib. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

Often designated “the maker of Russian pianists,” piano pedagogue and virtuoso Alexander Goldenweiser (1875-1961) spent fifty-six years before keyboard classes at the Moscow Conservatory. A strict classicist, Goldenweiser provided a tonic foil to the likes of Heinrich Neuhaus and Konstantin Igumnov, respectively the “philosophical” and “romantic” exponents at the school. A sufferer of stage fright, Goldenweiser abandoned the concert stage after 1906 for the classroom and occasional visits to the recording studio. From rather thin-sounding, often piercing Soviet Melodiya LP pressings, we have inscriptions from Moscow, 1952-1953 of miniatures by two of the great creators of character pieces, Tchaikovsky and Grieg.

Goldenweiser appears to have been first to record the complete Grieg’s Lyric Pieces; here, he offers us Book 7 and Book 9, and four excerpts from Book 8. Given the harsh, strident sound of the Melodiya originals, we can only guess at the softer sonority of Goldenweiser’s patina, but his clean, articulate phrasing and rounded, singing tone shine through. A staccato, martial miniature like Homeward, Op. 62, No. 6 becomes quite percussive and aggressive, with its faint recollections of the small, F Minor Schubert Moment musicaux. The French Serenade, Op. 62, No. 3 was a Gieseking staple, also. The innate charm of the piece insinuates itself immediately under Goldenweiser. The two large opera from Book 8, From Days of Youth and Wedding Day at Troldhaugen, become both declamatory and fiercely virtuosic at once. The Valse melancholique, Op. 68, No. 6 places Grieg within the harmonic context of Chopin and Scriabin, a most unusual, modal blend. The many liquid figures in Grieg glitter in a most compelling fashion, as Sylphe, Op. 62, No. 1; Brooklet, Op. 62, No. 4; and Sailor’s Song, Op. 68, No. 1.

Tchaikovsky’s Album for the Young obviously parallels Schumann’s extended set in the same spirit, his Op. 68. The most immediately familiar piece is the No. 18, the Neapolitan Song, utilized in The Nutcracker. Many of these vivid color-pieces run exquisitely brief, like No. 12, The peasant plays the accordion; No. 11, Russian Song; and No. 9, The New Doll. Tchaikovsky’s ability to compress national styles into chiseled pearls emerges from the Goldenweiser approach, both sympathetic and wrought with clarion brightness. Tchakovsky’s Kamarinskaya (No. 13) bears no resemblance to the Glinka: Tchaikovsky’s plays as a staccato etude in quick, running raindrops. The set opens and closes on “religious” note, the Morning Prayer and At Church, the latter of which carries the composer’s always compelling liturgical nobility. The little Italian Song (No. 15) might well speak for the direct, lithely lyrical simplicity of the entire ethos.

While perhaps not indicative of Goldenweiser’s large visions, these recordings do impress us with an artist of clear, variegated gifts and often tender sensibilities. Recommended.

–Gary Lemco


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