Mordecai Shehori: The Celebrated New York Concerts, Vol. 4 = HAYDN: Arietta and 12 Variations in A Major; SCHUBERT: Sonata in A Minor, Op. 143; RACHMANINOV: Melodie, Op. 3, No. 3; Polichinelle, Op. 3, No. 4; Valse in A Major, Op. 10, No. 2; Barcarolle in G Minor, Op. 10, No. 3; Etude-Tableau in E-flat Minor, Op. 39, No. 5; Humoresque in G, Op. 10. No. 5; Prelude in E-flat Major, Op. 23, No. 6; LISZT: Tarantella from Venezia e Napoli; MOZART: The Bread and Butter Valse – Mordecai Shehori, piano
Cembal d’amour CD 139, 65:58 [Distrib. by Qualiton] ****:
Assembled from New York recital appearances 1982-2001, this fourth volume by Mordecai Shehori (b. 1946) extends his recorded discography by some important works, particularly as they reveal his absorption of diverse, musical styles. Shehori opens with Haydn’s A Major Arietta and Variations (20 May 1987, from Merkin Concert Hall), as arranged by Shehori’s esteemed teacher, Mindru Katz. Like the Mozart “Duport” Variations, these rather dazzling inventions on a brittle, glistening tune drive the pianist rather hard, combining a natural, vocal quality for the keyboard with overt bravura.
If the capacity for pearly play and the light, lithe hand marks the Haydn selection, Schubert’s decidedly stentorian A Minor Sonata, D. 784 (22 May 1986, from Merkin Concert Hall) reminds us that percussion and savage passion are just as available to his temperament as felicitous song.
Among the more blatantly Beethoven-like sonatas by Schubert, the A Minor (1823; published after Schubert’s illness of 1822) delves into several awesome depths in its opening movement, Allegro gusto. When the music settles down dynamically, it does not necessarily become tame harmonically, plunging into some darkly modal, stabbing progressions over a fierce trill. The second movement, Andante, quotes from Schubert’s own song, “An den Mond, in einen Herbstnacht.” A passing reference cites the Arpeggione Sonata in the same key. Again, the filigree becomes rather wild before a lilting song emerges, and we can hear why Liszt would find this haunted work attractive. The Allegro vivace urges a fiendish tarantella, to be echoed later in Liszt himself. While a counter theme seeks idylls and sanctuary, the inexorable, angry Fates offer little consolation. By way of assuaging the soul, we have the Rachmaninov group, the first four of which come from a recital at Alice Tully Hall (2 June 2001): Melodie, Barcarolle, Etude-Tableau, Valse, and Humoresque, each of which reveals the lyric, Schumann-inspired aspect in Rachmaninov’s character. Shehori, moreover, can flaunt some gorgeous tone colors, a palette exotic, suggestively erotic. The G Minor Barcarolle already carries the composer’s signature ostinati and shimmering, repeated notes. The right hand runs point to his later Moment musicaux, Op. 16. The E-flat Minor Etude-Tableau expands the dark thoughts in the Barcarolle, now made titanic and impassioned by a world of experience. The Valse pays homage to Godowsky’s Vienna, taking its hat off to Chopin, besides. Music-box articulation from Shehori makes the piece a precious delight. The aggressive Humoresque nods to Tchaikovsky, but its rather inflamed figures hint no less at Stravinsky’s dynamism. The Prelude and Polichinelle derive from the 22 September 1980 concert from The 92nd Street Y, as do the ensuing Liszt Tarantelle and Mozart dance. The E-flat Major Prelude drips with erotic nostalgia, Rachmaninov’s bid to challenge Scriabin. The F-sharp Minor projects a moment of jagged grotesquerie in vibrant staccati and pulsating octaves. The debt is to Moussorgsky, cross-fertilized by hints from Liszt’s “Un Sospiro.”
Liszt’s demonic Tarantella fulfills the Mephistophelian impulses that have moved this musical amalgam, its runs and glissandi moving in aerial acrobatics across Shehori’s keyboard. The dervish-dance sometimes marches, sometimes glides like one of Liszt’s water-pieces, sometimes waxes rhetorical in the manner of a Hungarian Rhapsody, specifically The Carnival at Pesth. The repeated notes and glistening textures become superheated, La Campanella with a Neapolitan vengeance, Liszt in the grand manner.
“Today is Mozart’s birthday,” announces Shehori (27 January 1982), and the little, ingenuous waltz that follows hops and skips in lilting trills and cadential staccati virtually lisping with charm.