Mordecai Shehori – The Celebrated New York Concerts, Vol. 5 = Works of BEETHOVEN, WEBER, SCHUBERT, CHOPIN, SCHUMANN & LISZT – Mordecai Shehori, piano – Cembal d'amour

by | Apr 15, 2011 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Mordecai Shehori – The Celebrated New York Concerts, Vol. 5 = WEBER: Invitation to the Dance, Op. 65; BEETHOVEN: 32 Variations on an Original Theme in C Minor; SCHUBERT: Impromptu in E-flat Major, D. 899, No. 2; Impromptu in G-flat Major, D. 899, No. 3; CHOPIN: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 35 “Funeral March”; SCHUMANN (arr. List): Fruhlingsnacht; LISZT: Spanish Rhapsody – Mordecai Shehori, piano

Cembal d’amour CD 158, 70:57 [Distr. By Qualiton] ****:

Pianist and producer Mordecai Shehori consolidates pieces recorded by him in concert 1976-1984, from both Carnegie Recital Hall and Merkin Concert Hall in New York City.
The colorful assemblage of Romantics constitutes Shehori’s twenty-second “offspring” as he likes to quip, two more “progeny” than produced by J.S. Bach!

Shehori opens (15 May 1984) with a fluid and sensitively-balanced performance of Weber’s 1819 Invitation to the Dance in D-flat Major, a virtuoso vehicle which the composer labeled “rondeau brillante” and has provided pianists as diverse as Moiseiwitsch, Schnabel, and Brailowsky a marvelous tour de force for their talents. From a stately court introduction, the piece elegantly explodes into a waltz of lilting colors, augmented by vivace scale passages in high and low registers of pearly exuberance. Plastic, gracious, and eminently buoyant, the Shehori reading makes a marvelous case for the piano’s multifarious singing capabilities.

The Beethoven 32 Variations in C Minor, WoO 80 (1806) cast Shehori (1 June 1976) in an entirely different light, the master of a large flexible structure based on a simple chromatic progression, Beethoven’s equivalent of the great Chaconne we find in Bach’s D Minor Violin Partita BWV 1004. The sheer demands on the performer to articulate arpeggios, repeated notes, and staccati in graded dynamic groups proves quite daunting; in fact, the piece constitutes a compendium of keyboard techniques that quite embrace both Baroque and Classical approaches to percussive and legato sonorities. The 19th variation–with its 16th triplets in swirling motion–quite anticipates the Waldstein Sonata’s brilliant pyrotechnics. The darker modulations certainly caught the eye and ear of Brahms for his Handel Variations, and Handel’s own Chaconne in G Major may have played a significant influence. A pity Shehori cut the audience applause following the last chords of his whirlwind performance.

By some coincidence, Shehori performs the same pair of Schubert Impromptus featured in Dinu Lipatti’s famous last recital at Besancon 1950. The E-flat Major from D. 899 flows like a Chopin etude at first, but its middle section takes on a Spanish gait. Shehori’s hustle through the last bars in E-flat Minor brings the audience to fervent huzzahs. A fluent intimacy reigns supreme in the G-flat Major, though its bass line subtlety hints at the dark force we hear in the B-flat Major Sonata, Op. posth. Shehori spins out an uninterrupted song whose fluttering harp remains a liquid we hear in the lied Auf dem wasser zu singen, and in many of the Mendelssohn Songs Without Words.

While Robert Schumann commented that Chopin’s 1839 B-flat Minor, Op. 35 merely grouped together Chopin’s “four unruly children,” Shehori–like his forebears Mindru Katz, Vladimir Horowitz, and Artur Rubinstein–accords the music the highest respect, taking the first movement repeat and imbuing the music with a thrilling dramatic cohesion. Clearly, Chopin owes Beethoven several debts here, likely alluding to the Beethoven C Minor Sonata, Op. 111 and the Op. 26 Sonata with its own funeral march. Shehori achieves a fierce momentum that sweeps us to the movement’s potent conclusion. Chopin moves to a ternary structure for the interior movements, the frenzied Scherzo relenting in its middle section to a tender, forgiving interlude of wistful reminiscence. Shehori rather relishes the chromatic modulations and sudden rhythmic shifts in the trio, almost a tragic mazurka with soft, passing trills.  The Funeral March and its ensuing Presto complement each other, with only the solace of the funeral’s D-flat Major middle section to relieve the dirge’s grim tension and the Finale’s grotesque sweeping away of all mortal remains.

Liszt’s transcription (1872) of the twelfth of Schumann’s Liederkreis, Op. 39 proves a miracle of instrumental adjustment, the vocal line and accompaniment brilliantly subsumed into one virtuoso evocation of the “rustle” of the erotic impulse in springtime. The shimmering chordal line Shehori sustains will remind auditors of the classic reading by Josef Lhevinne, and the culmination of  the words “She is yours; she is yours!” brings a culmination that might evoke envy from Wagner. The Spanish Rhapsody is late Liszt, combining the chaconne-like Folies d’Espagne and the fiery Jota aragonesa that Glinka had found equally intoxicating. Typically, Liszt–and Shehori–turns the Rhapsody into an embellished mercurial character-piece with marches, whirlwind fioritura, double octaves, orchestral and even guitar effects. If the keyboard embraces the diabolic in one hand, the other hand fashions variants that ring with the diaphanous air of Scarlatti. Shehori matches the vulcanism that Lazar Berman brought to bear in this piece, and his color arsenal shines with a spectral light. He kept the applause after this one!  Highly recommended!

–Gary Lemco


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