Inci’s Book, Op. 10; 5 Preludes on Aksak Rhythms, Op. 45; BERNSTEIN:
Touches; MUCZYNSKI: Six Preludes, Op. 6 – Zeynap Ucbasaran, piano –
Eroica Classical JDT 3223 66:46 ****:
A nicely diversified program marks this installment of the ongoing
discography of Turkish virtuoso Zeynep Ucbarasan, who works and records
in Santa Barbara, California. The four sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti
show off some brisk, pearly play, with quicksilver runs and crossing of
hands marking the G Major, K. 146 sonata. The D Minor, K. 9 is a
familiar staple, a lovely andante with upward runs and turns. The C
Minor, K. 11 is almost in marcato, a metronomic articulation with
unisono cadences. We segue naturally enough into Beethoven’s short but
potentially explosive Op. 33 set of Bagatelles (1802). Moody, angular,
folkish, these pieces point to the Romantic character-piece of Schumann
and Grieg. Lucid, sober, and unforced playing from Ucbarasan keeps
these pieces piquant and vivacious. I find Ms. Ucbasaran a natural
Beethoven exponent, as she balances musical mischief and pungent or
lyrical impulses in Beethoven’s lexicon. The motor elements of Op. 33,
No. 7 could be a study for the Ucbarasan’s survey of the Waldstein
Ms. Ucbarasan then takes us to her native Turkey, courtesy of Ahmet
Adnan Saygun (1907-1991), a pupil of Vincent D’Indy at the Schola
Cantorum who fused folk elements with European techniques in the manner
of Bartok or a Turkish Schumann. Inci’s Book (1934) reads as a series
of character sketches in a young girl’s imaginary world. Some of them,
like A Tale, have a distinctly Debussy-like influence. Pentatonic
scales and modal harmonies abound, gentle exoticism. The Preludes on
Aksak Rhythms (1967) communicate more of the nervous mid-20th century
angst and pointillism we know from Webern and Stravinsky. The meters
oscillate between duple and triple, and the high registration merge to
create unearthly chants. I keep hearing Debussy’s Des pas sur la neige.
Preludes No. 7 and No. 10 generate their own obsessions. The last
number, Prelude 11, could have been penned by Kabalevsky.
I first heard Bernstein’s Touches (1980) performed by Shura Cherkassky.
Composed for the sixth Van Cliburn Competition, the setting (Chorale, 8
Variations, Coda) provides the keyboard player with an array of
rhythmic and dynamic constellations, although few melodic moments. The
music of Robert Muczynski (b. 1929) has come into its own, with his Op.
6 (1954) Preludes already asserting a strong personality, with the
influence of his teacher Alexander Tcherepnin, whose own theories of
counterpoint, or “interpunct,” provide a volatile compositional brew.
Alternately brisk, martial, and lyrical, these preludes can be placed
against those of Chopin or Rachmaninov without embarrassment. Clear,
crisp, piano sound, intelligent liner notes (by Ucbarasan), and a class
production make this keyboard survey a keeper.