Vladimir Ashkenazy Recital = CHOPIN: Scherzo No. 4 in E Major, Op. 54; Nocturne in B Major, Op. 62, No. 1; DEBUSSY: L’Isle joyeuse; RAVEL: Gaspard de la Nuit – Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano – Decca “The Originals”

by | Aug 30, 2007 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Vladimir Ashkenazy Recital = CHOPIN: Scherzo No. 4 in E Major, Op. 54; Nocturne in B Major, Op. 62, No. 1; DEBUSSY: L’Isle joyeuse; RAVEL: Gaspard de la Nuit – Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano

Decca “The Originals” 475 8499, 45:21 [Distrib. by Universal] ***:

This reissue of the 1965 Ashkenazy recital on LP maintains the original French program intact, which may not appeal to the collector who prefers a longer disc, one that perhaps could have attached Ashkenazy’s work from the same period in Chopin and Bach with conductor David Zinman. At the time, Ashkenazy had been making his reputation (after the Tchaikovsky Competition, where he shared honors with John Ogden) as the hot young firebrand, big on bravura in the Horowitz tradition.

The E Major Scherzo of Chopin, a curious admixture of skittish mercury and the darker hues of Romantic Agony, Ashkenazy carries off quite well, and in vivid, colored sound from Decca engineers. The upper register and bass block chords shine without that overtone ping that plagues many keyboard inscriptions. [Or does it just plague many Steinways?…Ed.] The warmth of the Scherzo’s trio transfers well into the Nocturne in B, one of the last Chopin studies in harmonic rhythm and subtle modulation that point to worlds he did not live long enough to explore further.

Debussy’s Isle of Joy glistens with a particularly hard edge, if not the lacquered hammers with which Horowitz realizes this boldly inventive piece. Ashkenazy maintains both its dazzling filigree and its water elements in exquisite balance. Ravel’s knotty Gaspard de la Nuit suite, a favorite of the arch-pedalist Gieseking, traverses the Bertrand world of nymph to nightmare with breathless but not shapeless agitation. Stunning repeated notes and staccati, a fierce underlying pulse throughout. Quite splendid keyboard artistry; it’s just that I wanted more for my CD buck.

— Gary Lemco               

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