Chopin/Janacek: Notebook; Domenico Codispoti (piano) – Eudora SACD 2203 – 3/6/2022 77:20: *****
Eudora has been producing boutique audiophile recordings of chamber music for a number of years now. I can think of no other label which has carved out such a unique niche in classical music. Always the same recording hall in Zaragoza Spain, presumbaby the same set-up with the microphones and baffles and cables. After hearing near twenty of these recordings I feel like I could find my seat in the dark without an usher. It is 12 feet dead center from the Steinway piano. The artists do very, although one, Josep Colom is on several recordings and indeed sets a very high standard for the others. The repertoire centers on the great works of 20th century piano repertoire with forays into duos and trios and some superb guitar and lute recitals as well. Chopin seems to be a central concern and the newest releases features a recital of the Preludes. The artist, Domenico Codispoti, is an Italian pianist, likely not known to our readers; This recording will surely bring him significant recognition for his considerable musical prowess which is suggested by his first name.
The Preludes never fail to reveal a pianist’s commitments and seriousness. The music is of such transcendent beauty that it asks for a special act of disappearance of the artistic ego. And yet, the technical demands and the constant changing of mood, texture and dynamics calls for an alertness; mystic noodling and gaseous exhalations must be shunned. COntrol and artistic decisions are vital. In short, a good Chopin reading requires a lot of confidence and artistic maturity. Codispoti scores very high in these regards. (To make sure that I am not too easily swept away by the pure beauty of the music I usually try to play Ivan Morevic a little before and during a review of a new Chopin recording in order to keep my standards consistent.
Pedaling and Rubato are two of the sticky points in a Chopin Prelude. Codispoti treats each with delicacy. In the XVth Prelude Sostenuto, he lingers but does not droop. The polyphonic dimension is firmly expressed; the lower registers of the piano have such astonishing clarity that one feels like it is the Spirit of Bach hovering over this performance, rather than the Romantic pianist wizardry of Schumann and Liszt. The Steinway in Zaragoza sounds very big but not sharp or brittle.
In the Vivace and Molto Agitato department, Codsipoti shows that he can prestidigitate with the best. In fact, the Preludes like all beautiful things must come to an end, and they do so with the famous Allegro appassionato. Orchestrally rich and dramatic, with glissandi cascading and swelling declarations, and then the punctuation of the final low thunderous clang. All in all a first rate reital. But we are only half-way through.
Eudora does especially well with its pairings, often exploring a connection or affinity in music and thereby opening up a new horizon. This was done very well in the Colom recordings which saw Chopin paired with Bach, Mozart and Liszt in three different recitals. I was therefore not surprised but delighted to find the second half delivering the most popular of piano works by Leos Janacel and then a lesser known small work as an encore.
The ten pieces of “On an Overgrown Path” by Leos Janacek (1854-1928) match the Chopin Preludes in terms of brevity and concentration. There is not one note too many. If anything the utterance tends towards elision, understatement and withdrawal. There are noticeable moments of anguish in the music, especially in the suggestive Words Fail and the desolate The Barn Owl Has Not Flown Away. Of the biographical connections to those pieces, one can read in the liner notes. However, for the person new to Janacek, I would suggest not relying on extra musical props, for the music is extraordinarily transparent as to its expressive sense. What can become a learned pleasure in this music is the unevenness of the phrases, and the unpredictability of the intervals and tart harmonization. I still can’t explain how what started as a puzzlement – I still recall my teacher “How strange all the intervals are, no?”- became a delight. After all, although Janacek’s life span puts him mostly in with the Romantics (he was born only five years after Chopin’s death), his musical vocabulary is resolutely modern. At the same time, it owes nothing to any other composer and in that sense he is closest to Debussy who fashioned an original language at exactly the same time.
There is an Etude-like feel to many of these short essays. This is one affinity that this composer has to Chopin; a feeling of a single idea which is fully developed and exists within its own terms of reference.
Janacek was a harsh judge of his own music. His sonata of 1905 written as a tribute to a friend who was killed in political strife in his hometown of Brno was performed on January 27th 1906. Shortly thereafter he threw the manuscript in the river. ( a third movement he had earlier burned) Luckily, the first two movements had been transcribed by the first performer and showed up at a later date, when in a less censorious frame of mind the compower agreed to have it published.
In two movements, Presentiment and Death, the piece shows all of the marks of the composer’s genius. The themes seem lifted from speech. An obsessive downward falling motif announces the ill-fate on the way. The left hand confirms a brooding counterpoint. A few lilting figures of inquiry are drowned in the storm. It is pretty straight Romantic Tone Poetry but unlike Liszt it doesn’t spin into excess.
But the finale segment Death is a piece of 20th century music that can stand with the most personal statements of Dmitir Shostakovich. Expressive in the same way, but also remarkably taut and understated with the typical rhythmic asymmetry. Domenico Codospoti confesses in the liner notes that Janacek is very much his kind of composer and the listener will be much persuaded by these vividly powerful performances.
Eudora should simply continue to deliver these first-rate audiophile recordings of Chamber Music. Classical music fans would do well to stay abreast of their releases and check out there catalog at https://eurodarecords.com.
More information at Eudora Records