Invitation to the Nineteenth Century: Character Pieces of WEBER, BEETHOVEN, and SCHUBERT = WEBER: Invitation to the Dance, Op. 65; Perpetuum Mobile from Sonata No. 1 in C, Op. 24; SCHUBERT: 12 Noble Waltzes, Op. 77; Scherzo No. 1 in B-flat, D. 593, No. 1; Six Moments Musicaux, D. 780; BEETHOVEN: Bagatelle in A Minor “Fuer Elise”; 11 Bagatelles, O. 119 – Findlay Cockrell, piano – Findlay Recordings FC-04, 69:46 [www.findalycockrell.com] **** :
Having reviewed Mr. Cockrell’s survey of Grieg’s piano music, I felt comfortable in auditioning his notions of salon music by Beethoven, Weber, and Schubert, the three composers who helped establish musical Romanticism as we know it. The 1819 Invitation to the Dance, Op. 65, which Cockrell takes at a relentlessly brisk tempo, stereotypically assumes its place as the first incarnation of the waltz in classical music. The Rondo by Weber that book-ends the entire disc has maintained its own logos away from the rest of the C Major Sonata from which it derives. Its relentless series of sixteenth notes tests the wrists and forearm stamina of the executor; here, Cockrell, who holds the thin line between this piece’s discrete, virtuosic flair and many a clone by Felix Mendelssohn.
But in the 1827 set of 12 Noble Waltzes, D. 969 by Schubert we receive that ceaseless flow of melodic invention as applied to the waltz form, with the key of C Major’s serving as a convenient series of resting stations in the course of harmonic modulations chosen for their dove-tailing on prior pieces. Occasionally, Schubert, like Weber, chooses a dominant rhythmic pattern as the glue by which a set waltzes proceeds. Cockrell preserves Schubert’s innately Viennese lilt, and his chosen Steinway resonates without any percussively intrusive over-brightness. The B-flat Major Scherzo (1817) conveys a piquant charm and inner confidence in triple meter, considering its nineteen-year-old inventor. Its rustic trio section hearkens to the village laendler rife in Schubert’s experience. The 1823-1828 group of Six Moments Musicaux has had many fine inscriptions, among them a revered reading by Rudolf Serkin. Cockrell brings a decided sensitivity to the C Major, No. 1, its innate songfulness ardently realized, though a bit quickly to my taste. The No. 2 in A-flat Major is marked Andantino, and its five sections receive thoughtful and spatial treatment from Cockrell. Its nocturne sentiments suddenly erupt into a tragic paroxysm, only to return to the cool stoicism of the opening. The No. 3 in F Minor “Danse russe” enjoys a chaste simplicity of rustic means. The C-sharp Minor takes its cue from Bach, and Cockrell keeps a taut rein on the metric pulse and the clarity of articulation. Its middle section, a stately laendler that undergoes development, points to Chopin. The Allegro vivace in F Minor explodes in the manner of Beethoven, except Cockrell modulates his pedaling to allow soft tissue to appear. The final moment, in A-flat Major (Allegretto), has a published subtext, “The Sorrows of a Troubadour.” A repeated drooping figure and pained chromatics permit this epithet. Cockrell plays a literalist version of the text, nothing distorted by false pathos. The lovely folkish song that arises as a middle section bears its charm nobly.
Cockrell’s Beethoven begins with the A Minor “For Elise,” (c. 1810) a forward moving, unsentimental account. The set of 11 Bagatelles, Op. 119, likely penned at various points along the composer’s creative career, came together as a publication in 1823. They involve many styles of keyboard attack and figuration, highly condensed in a manner worthy to inform the likes of Schoenberg and Webern. Some exploit open sixth chords and pre-date Rachmaninov. Some, like No. 3, begin innocently enough, then explode into trilled fragments and heavy-footed dances. Cockrell delivers liquid and rhythmically aggressive readings that remain tasteful and thoughtful at once. If No. 7 opens with a rhetorical question, it moves through a dark trill and a fiery arpeggio. The No. 9 opens with rolling arpeggios that gain persuasiveness by repetition. The tenth passes by like a squall in broken textures. The last has a touch of regret, a kind of stately gavotte with a poetic epilogue.
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