Vol. 2 from Romantic pianist Jascha Spivakovksy offers a diversity of musical styles, each approached as passionately and reverently. PAKM 067, 77:12 [avail. in various formats from www.pristineclassical. com] *****:

Culled from private recordings made by Michael Spivakovksy in Melbourne, Australia, 1955-1967, these mono inscriptions enjoy ambient stereo remastering from Pristine’s Andrew Rose.  Jascha Spivakovsky (1896-1970) had absorbed much of the Romantic ethos into his musicianship, including a brilliant technical facility and probing intellect that hearkened to traditions in Liszt and Anton Rubinstein.

The opening foray into Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in d minor, for instance, while surging with euphonious and rhythmic power, often permits extended moments of genuine reflection and relaxation, a savoring of the color elements of Bach, arranger, Busoni, and Spivakovsky’s own dynamic adjustments.  The suppleness and strength of the spun line becomes mesmerizing, while even the recitative passages exhibit monolithic, organ sonority.  The fugal section serves as a vehicle for consummate, graduated control of florid bass and treble textures and dynamics, all the while maintaining an inexorable pulse.  As playful as it is “learned,” the performance quite carries us away in its dancing or tumultuous momentum.

The Mozart 1783 Sonata in F Major breathes an entirely altered atmosphere: clarity and radiant self-possession mark every measure.  The entire exposition seems to flow in a single unit, its periods naturally extending one to the other, even when Mozart takes an unexpected turn into c minor. Those bravura elements and ornamental displays Mozart relishes become subsumed by Spivakovsky into the lyrical ascension of the figures, integrating whatever tragic thoughts occupy this world into an optimistic design. The Adagio plays as a sonatina in B-flat Major, often, via Spivakovsky, in the manner of a music-box. The final Allegro assai permits Spivakovsky a rougher edge, rife with aggressive ornaments. While plastic in character, the playing does not overly sentimentalize or avoid ruffling the crystal. The shimmering that does emerge enjoys a virile energy, rather forward-looking to a certain master from Bonn, Germany.

Since the music of Beethoven appears, in alternately playful and meditative guises, we can listen to Spivakovsky to add his touch of ardent sonorities to the proceedings, a nice rival in the Scottish Dances to the classic rendition by Andor Foldes. The early Rondo in G presents an extended, one-movement hybrid form, infiltrated by sonata-form development later in its affectionately tender applications, dolce et grazioso. When the music moves to a new Allegretto, tempo, the key becomes a bright E Major. Spivakovsky applies a light, deft hand, easily ensuring Beethoven might be construed for Haydn.

My first recorded encounter with Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu came by way of Robert Goldsand, no mean interpreter, himself.  A kind of study, it pits quick sixteenths against triplets, in cut time. Spivakovsky wastes no motion attacking the allegro agitato in ferocious passion, moving to the D-flat moderato with an elegance and poetic aristocracy as concentrated as his opening proved aggressive. The enharmonic evolution shifts back to the opening c-sharp minor, perhaps a touch more hectic than before. The layered, quiet finale chases rainbows, but they have been through a maelstrom.

The “Funeral March” Sonata suffers a distant acoustic, but the driven lyricism of the first movement has not been lost. The attacks, more staccato has been the wont, produce a marcato effect, studied and poignant, perhaps touched by a resignation that attends the struggle. Spivakovsky takes the first movement repeat, extending the tragic mood. If the sound were better, Spivakovsky’s bass line would be voluptuous. Nevertheless, we have a highly personal, studied reading of mesmerizing beauty. Spivakovsky lingers over the subsequent Scherzo, whose e-flat minor opening can wreak havoc on some pianists with its acerbic octaves, double notes, and stretched chords.  Its haunted middle section, a lovely nocturne, directly appeals to Spivakovsky, who assigns it a temenos – a sacred space, even in the warm, bass trills – all its own. Spivakovsky’s Funeral March reveals an economy of means and motion, spare, poised, capable of more fire and wrenching pain than he is willing to express. The trill alone has become monolithic.  The means simplify further in the middle section, a memory touched everywhere by tesknota, pained nostalgia. The tempestuous finale thrusts forward individual notes in each hand, an octave apart, producing an eerie, Gothic effect. Schumann called the Sonata a “pastiche of wayward children,” but Spivakovsky has united the movements into something eminently distinguished.

—Gary Lemco