Classical CD Reviews
BORIS GOLTZ: Scherzo in E Minor; 24 Preludes, Op. 2; CHOPIN: Nocturne in F Major, Op. 15, No. 1; Waltz in B Minor, Op. 69, No. 2; Nocturne in D-flat Major, Op. 27, No. 2; Polnaise in A-flat, O. 53 “Heroic” – Sergei Podobedov, piano – Music&Arts
Published on August 6, 2008
Boris Goltz (1913-1942) will rank among the many premature deaths of fine talents destroyed by war, the musical equivalent of a Sassoon or Wilfred Owen. The 24 Preludes are the product of Goltz’s second year at the Leningrad Conservatory, 1934-35. At that time, Goltz shared a piano class with Sofronitsky, who would record one prelude and the Scherzo by Goltz. When the Nazis attacked Russia, Goltz enlisted for military service only to die in the Siege of Leningrad. Typical of the neo-Romantic school of Russian virtuosity, the piano works of Boris Goltz display a marked obligation to Chopin and Liszt, then a splashy, virtuosic element taken from Rachmaninov and the more sarcastic Prokofiev. When the poetic Goltz manifests itself, we think of Scriabin’s ecstatic eroticism.
Sergei Podobedov (b. 1972) recorded the complete piano music of Goltz at the Pavel Slobodkin Center, Moscow, April 2007. He opens with a brilliant Scherzo in E Minor, whose etude-like motion takes its stamp from Chopin’s 16th Prelude in B-flat Minor coupled with some modally Phyrgian harmonies. A wicked perpetual mobile, it breaks into rhythmic periods, then restarts as a drunken figure and ostinato that achieves some glistening effects. We might easily mistake the piece for a Prokofiev or Kabalevsky toccata. The pungent coda whisks us away.
Goltz’s large masterpiece for keyboard are the 24 Preludes; again Chopin’s Op. 28 in the circle of fifths provides the model. Like Chopin, Goltz arranges his preludes alternately as nocturnes, etudes, abbreviated sonata-motifs, dramatic fragments, and bravura scherzi. Most of the preludes are uncannily brief, a synthesis of powerful currents into a condensed, harmonic space. Each conforms to the traditional system of tonality, so their brevity remains lyric, not an aspect of Webern’s syntax. The No. 4 in E Minor achieves breadth and lyric power at once, perhaps an homage to Medtner. A music-box for the D Major’s dancing figures. The B Minor takes another tempestuous page from Chopin, his Prelude in F Minor. The capricious A Major prefaces the step-wise F-sharp Minor, which does allude to Medtner, that composer’s haunted Sonata-Reminiscenza. The C-sharp Minor suggests Moussorgsky’s chorales, deeply intoned in the manner of Catacombs or Chopin’s own E Minor Prelude. The B Major‘s thoughtfulness leads to the wispy scherzo that comprises the G-sharp Minor. A march reminiscent of Prokofiev or young Shostakovich defines the F-sharp Major. The E-flat evokes dancing images, snowflakes or rose petals. The D-flat Major is a non-legato scherzo, brittle and insistent.
No. 16 for Goltz captures his mysticism, a la Scriabin. More Chopin influence for A-flat Minor and F Minor, both bravura etudes in plastic rhythm and sonorous mixology. The E-flat Major exploits the upper register over Debussian harmony, its own Gradus ad Parnassam with a touch of the pentatonic about it. The C Minor is a gritty chase, double octaves and singing punctuations of which militant Prokofiev could be proud. The B-flat Major and the G Minor form a lyrically melancholy diptych, studies in droplets and measured sadness. Perhaps Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet touches these two. Fluid, softly dissonant motion in F Major leads to the clarion percussion of the D Minor, whose terse but concentrated power leaves us impressed with Goltz as he is and might have been.
Pobobedov fills out his world premier of Goltz with four staples from Frederic Chopin. A liquid tone and easy articulation gives us pause in the F Major Nocturne, with its dramatic contrast for the middle section. The D-flat Nocturne proceeds unmannered, but its harmonic veils and expressive contours each enjoy a pregnant breath and sensitive, pearly propulsion to the next phrase. A subtle, nuanced syncopation defines the B Minor Waltz – fleet, evocative, touched by limpid hints of the evening’s later pleasures. The A-flat Polonaise asserts itself with virile power, the roulades accumulating a gripping–even explosive–momentum reminiscent of what the fellow Russian Dmitri Paperno achieves in Chopin, a natural exponent of this most characteristic keyboard medium.
- – Gary Lemco