Mordecai Shehori plays BEETHOVEN, Vol. 3 = Sonata Op. 110; Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major – Mordecai Shehori (p.)/ The Hunter Symphony/ Clayton Westermann – Cembal d’amour

by | May 4, 2017 | Classical Reissue Reviews

The youthful Mordecai Shehori makes his appearance in these live renditions of two potent Beethoven works.

Mordecai Shehori plays BEETHOVEN, Vol. 3 = Sonata No. 31 in A-flat Major, Op. 110; Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58 – Mordecai Shehori, piano/ The Hunter Symphony/ Clayton Westermann – Cembal d’amour CD 188, (3/18/17) 53:08 [] ****:

Recorded 19 May 1970 at the Jerusalem, Israel Beethoven Competition, the twenty-four-year-old Mordecai Shehori delivers his First-Prize winning rendition of Beethoven’s late (1821) Sonata in A-flat Major.  In many ways, Shehori’s is a young man’s performance, eager to remain faithful to the text, admirably aware of Beethoven’s directive to play the beguiling first movement Moderato cantabile molto espressivo with that con amabilita that often turns the arpeggiated filigree into an Aeolian harp.  The opening measures of the first movement will later supply material for the fugue of the final movement. Shehori’s attention to touch and pedal effects reflects his poised absorption of his virtuoso-pedagogue Mindru Katz’s example. The pungency of Shehori’s articulation commands the potent scherzo, marked Allegro molto, in which Beethoven incorporates two playful Austrian songs into his antiphonal and martial mix, rife with jabbing accents and metric displacements. The trio section of this imposing movement has its own challenges, in the form of crossed hands and rapid eighth notes.

The lovely Adagio dolente movement seems to sub-divide, interrupted by an archaic-sounding fugue that itself endures the re-entry of the Adagio.  So, the form of the latter portion of the sonata begs the question of three or four movements, given the appearance of another, augmented version of the fugue, now in an inversion of the subject in a high register and imposing in its density. Both Shehori’s chords and recitative-arioso elements have intimacy and delicacy. The dynamics of the fugue swell and dissipate, startle and recede, with austere majesty. The notion of dolente, sadness, casts a veil over the progression that begs Schumann’s notion of inwardness. In the second fugue, however, Beethoven supplants Bach, and a renewed energy – following several insistent, clarion chords in G – bursts forth, superimposing contrary motion in a way that quite looks forward to the Second Viennese School, except that the peroration has a unique heroism that Beethoven and acolyte Shehori bring off exquisitely.

From New York City, Hunter College (5 December 1977), we have a rare orchestral collaboration by Shehori, in the 1807 Beethoven Fourth Concerto. Shehori has a “natural” showcase for his legato in the first movement, which utilizes a spare scoring, with no trumpets or tympani. After his opening statement, Shehori must wait for 69 measures to return to the musical forefront. The “fate” pattern of the rhythmic kernel assumes an Apollinian cast, emphasizing intimacy and meditation in a broad exercise in lyric outpouring. That Shehori can assert cascading scales as well as demonized trills and bass chords add a special thrust to the opening Allegro moderato that culminates in a splendid cadenza.  Here, a thoughtful, slowly resonant series of thematic chords and runs evolve from Shehori to become a shimmering song and then a mighty torrent – alternately intimate and explosive – of dramatic gestures, especially in his bass chords. The famous Andante movement has its natural colloquy of emphatic orchestral octaves against the calming influence of the keyboard. Finally, the full orchestra erupts in the Rondo – Vivace, in which trumpets and tympani can assist Shehori in the energetic entries of the main theme or the orchestra’s response to Shehori’s onsets. Conductor Westermann, by the way, had been a pillar of academic strength at Adelphi University before having moved on to musical work at Hunter College, and his ensemble proves poised and responsive throughout.

—Gary Lemco