Klavier zu vier Haenden (Piano for Four Hands) = REGER: Sechs Walzer, Op. 22; SCHULHOFF: Ironien, Op. 34; SHERWOOD: Sonata in Blue, Op. 66; DEBUSSY: Ballade; MENDELSSOHN: Andante und Allegro vivace assai, Op. 92 – Mathias Veit & Henning Lucius, piano – Telos Music TLS 063, 60:26 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
The present collection of late-Romantic and 20th century four-hand music derives from inscriptions made 7-9 September 2001. The opening selection of Six Waltzes by Max Reger takes its cue from those Op. 39 Waltzes by Johannes Brahms, in ternary form colored by Reger’s penchant for thick polyphony. The fourth of the set, Moderato, casts a haunted shadow rife with the Brahms nostalgia. The last two, Vivace and Allegro vivace, send up eccentric metrics more in the irreverent style of Ravel rather than in any conservative formula.
The music of Erwin Schulhoff generously affirms its affinity for jazz idioms; but here, in his six Ironies, Op. 34 (1920), he proclaims his dedication to Dada in his own poem, “Learn Dada,” which blatantly celebrates lustful wenching: “I will invent a tango for you which I will call Tango perversiano.” The martial and fox-trot rhythms may have some affinity with Kurt Weill, but the posteriori knowledge of Schulhoff’s tragic fate adds an eerie ring of morbid determinism into the sardonic vaudeville. The duo Lucius and Veit make percussive edginess the rule for the Allegro deciso and Tempo di Fox which conclude Schulhoff’s irreverent homage to the Fitzgerald ethos of wild hilarity, as annotated by a modern Trimalchio.
Gordon Sherwood (1929-2013) came to my attention via some rare, New York orchestral readings of his work by Dimitri Mitropoulos. Sherwood’s four-movement Sonata in Blue in F Minor (1981) definitely pays tribute to a Gershwin rhapsody in the same color, as well to the Schubert four-hand Fantasie in F Minor. This performance marks the piece’s debut on record. The highly syncopated, jumpy first movement proves a definite winner, jazzy and swaggering. Chromatic grace notes infiltrate the Scherzo – molto vivace second movement, a persistent cluster of accented and splashy rhythmic thrusts. The Aria – non troppo adagio provides the bluesy heart of the sonata, its ethos close to the second of Gershwin’s Three Preludes. Like the second movement of the Schubert A Major Sonata, D. 959, the middle section finds the steady parlando interrupted by Bach polyphony, much in the manner of a music-box. The Rondo – Allegro con brio salutes boogie-woogie, either via Scott Joplin or Morton Gould. Breathless, the music moves toccata-like in a perpetual motion, jazzy panoply by our two gifted keyboard artists.
Debussy conceived his Ballade in 1890, while under the spell of the Romantics, especially Tchaikovsky, since its first designation was “Ballade slave.” Originally scored for two hands, this arrangement comes from Gustave Samazeuilh. The melody repeats in blissful arpeggios which our duo can make sound as if Gieseking were still among us. The melody, by the way, provided the basis of Le plus que lente some twenty-five years later.
Mendelssohn’s Andante and Allegro brilliant (1841) concludes the recital, a piece cast in the typical fashion of a lyric “overture” followed by a tumultuously bravura scherzo in 6/8 rife with virtuosity and high-minded melodic invention. That the two pianists can imbue a blazing series of motions with a lovely singing line testifies to their fluent control of the medium they so obviously relish as an expression of the Romantic keyboard’s capacity for flamboyant and affective colors. Piano sound, courtesy of recording engineer Joachim Krist, proves first-rate.