BACH: Italian Concerto in F Major; Prelude in E-flat Major; Prelude and Fugue in A Minor (arr. LISZT); HAYDN: Piano Sonata No. 50 in D Major; MOZART: Piano Sonata in C Minor; Rondo in F; SCARLATTI: Sonata in E – John Browning, piano – MSR Classics

by | Feb 13, 2006 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

BACH: Italian Concerto in F Major, BWV 971; Prelude in E-flat Major, BWV 998; Prelude and Fugue in A Minor, BWV 543 (arr. LISZT); HAYDN: Piano Sonata No. 50 in D Major; MOZART: Piano Sonata in C Minor, K. 457; Rondo in F, K. 616; SCARLATTI: Sonata in E, K. 380

 John Browning, piano – MSR Classics MS 1123,  63:57  (Distrib. Albany) ****:

Volume IV of MSR’s John Browning (1933-2003) Edition restores a number of items which the pianist’s commercial recorded repertory omits, especially in the world of Baroque music. Though no tape source nor venue is credited, the opening Bach Italian Concerto enjoys Browning’s clean articulation and steady pulse. Without the sustaining pedal, the notes emerge pointillistically, then decay in stillness. The Andante is legato and songful; the Presto a brilliant swirl of flint-speckled colors. The articulation rivals Glenn Gould, but it is not so sec in touch and projection. Cascades up pre-Mannheim rockets light up the keyboard. The E-flat Prelude is taken from one of the Lute Suites – a drooping, plaintive evocation in somber tones, with trill fragments and an occasionally dark bass line. The large transcription by Liszt of the organ Prelude and Fugue in A Minor comes from The American Theatre, Brussels, 8 September 1958. Despite thin sound, we can appreciate the shifts in texture and clean attention to details of rhythm and voicing.  The bass harmonies collide but do not smear. The motor elements of the Fugue dance and lilt, as required. Browning keeps a softer hand on his wonted percussive sound, and the trills are the soul of good keyboard diction, the repetitions hypnotic. The final chord brings ’em to their feet.

The Haydn and Mozart selections were taped at the Phi Beta Kappa Auditorium, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, 9 October 1964. Haydn’s D Major Sonata sparkles with staccato energies and large, breathed phrases. Soft, clean accelerando and diaphanous trills are in fashion, elegantly applied. The piano tone is brittle for the Sturm und Drang Adagio, but Browning’s arpeggios and block chords ring evenly. The concluding Presto appears out of thin air, all optimistic jaunt and lively pomp. The Mozart presents a dark, empfindsamkeit sensibility, carefully realized by Browning, who keeps the duet voicing in the opening movement moving. That the harmonic and dramatic features, as well as the economy of means, point to Beethoven Browning leaves no doubt. Wonderful delicacy and nuance in the Adagio, with its sudden shift to dark realms. The rocket and staccato figures in the final Allegro convey an idiomatic sensibility. For those who may have discounted Browning as a Mozart acolyte, this performance acts as a bracing tonic.  The Rondo (and Variations) for mechanical organ as well as the Scarlatti derive from  an unaccredited locale. Mozart’s Rondo in F asks pearly appoggiaturas and operatic ariosi of Browning, which he readily supplies, alla musette. The recital ends with Mr. Browning’s announcing Scarlatti’s ubiquitous Sonata in E, whose martial elegance first captivated me through Walter Gieseking.  Taken a bit more marcato with Browning, the little jewel achieves ceremony and sensuality at once.

–Gary Lemco

Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Apollo's Fire
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01