Classical Reissue Reviews

Mordecai Shehori: The Celebrated New York Concert, Vol. 3 = Works of BACH, BEETHOVEN, CHOPIN, LISZT, SCHUBERT-LISZT & ROSENTHAL – Cembal d’amour

When Shehori pours on the fff, watch out! An Israeli-born pianist with Vienna blood, a musical cosmopolite’s dream? Ask the delirious audience.

Published on January 30, 2009

Mordecai Shehori: The Celebrated New York Concert, Vol. 3 = Works of BACH, BEETHOVEN, CHOPIN, LISZT, SCHUBERT-LISZT & ROSENTHAL – Cembal d’amour
Mordecai Shehori: The Celebrated New York Concert, Vol. 3 = BACH: Largo from Klavier Concerto No. 5 in F Minor, BWV 1056; BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 22 in F Major, Op. 54; CHOPIN: Berceuse in D-flat Major, Op. 57; Polonaise in E-flat Minor, Op. 40, No. 1; Scherzo No. 1 in B Minor, Op. 20; SCHUBERT-LISZT: Gretchen am Spinnrade; Erlkoenig; Soirees de Vienne–Valse Caprice No. 6; LISZT: Consolation in D-flat Major; Mephisto Waltz No. 1; ROSENTHAL: Carnaval de Vienne–Humoresque after themes by J. Strauss – Mordecai Shehori, piano

Cembal d’amour CD 133, 76:21 [Distrib. by Qualiton] ****:

Pianist-producer Mordecai Shehori has assembled excerpts from his various New York City recitals to comprise this disc, concerts that span 1979-1987 from two distinct venues, Merkin Hall and the 92nd Street Y. Always conscious of projecting a rich, variegated tone, Shehori opens–with an ’encore’ if you will–his own arrangement of the Largo from Bach’s F Minor Concerto (20 May 1987), so we have, by association, a throwback to the liquid, “golden” pianism of Edwin Fischer and Myra Hess.  The Beethoven Sonata in F (20 April 1983) makes an immediate contrast, its weird agogics and mocking tone in two movements seeming to synthesize aspects of the G Major Sonata, Op. 31, No. 1 and the cumulative momentum of the last movement from the E-flat Major Sonata-quasi-fantasia, Op. 27, No. 1.  The Menuetto that constitutes the first movement explodes periodically, only to break off into delicately brittle shards, trills, and impulses from the original materials.  Shehori keeps the moving threads of the Allegretto light, even, but plastic in contour and evanescent coloration.

 
The Chopin group (only the Polonaise comes from the 92nd Street Y, 27 January 1982), in the main from Merkin Hall (20 May 1987) presents us different sides of the composer himself. The Berceuse offers us a music-box study in both ostinato and kaleidoscopic transparency of touch, a distant cousin of Scarlatti’s especial keyboard magic. The Polonaise proves darkly lit, aggressive, its various registers’ competing for a national identity. The da capo communicates a haunted pathos, like a bitter wind roaming through the tatters of a once stately banner. The B Minor Scherzo borrows some of the Horowitz fire, perhaps even more moody than he in its vigorous progress through the maelstrom. The trio’s noel quivers in pearls, a nocturne of chiseled beauty over resonant, bass harmonies. The da capo marks out a “fate” motif not so far from Beethoven’s ethos. After a series of staggered chords, the coda breaks loose in a veritable whirlwind of titanic bravura.

Arpeggiation and flowing legato vie for sonorous ascendancy in the Gretchen study (20 May 1987) by Liszt, the girl’s recalling infatuation and tragic love. A mighty silence at the recollection of Faust’s fateful kiss, the spinning wheel marking the cycle of  all affairs. Shehori’s piano imitates Marian Anderson for the Erl-King (27 January 1982), whose narrative conveys tempests of weather and the human soul. Enchanted playing for the Erl-King’s tender, first seduction of the boy to his fatal kingdom. The restrained vehemence of the child’s panic and the father’s consolations burst their bonds as the boy’s inevitable demise reveals itself.  The damper pedal is off for the first bars of Soiree de Vienne No. 6, a compilation of Schubert German Dances and laendler, suave, elegant, eminently melodic according to the composer’s modal lights. Flecks of impromptus manage to insinuate themselves into the brew. The aura softens considerably as Shehori takes us to the Austrian salon and a dazzling series of cascading variants, reminiscent of Chopin’s Chants polonaises.

Liszt (without the hyphen) appears (20 May 1987) in the form of the D-flat Consolation, a past favorite of Horowitz and that other eminent Liszt exponent, Jorge Bolet. Its dreamy, liquid surface drips with soft eroticism, Tristan in a genie’s bottle. Like Vladimir Horowitz and Mindru Katz, both Shehori’s mentors, the demonic Liszt maintains his fascination and digital pyrotechnics for this performer, who admirably meets the constant challenge to balance the electrifying filigree with the formal and ineluctable logic of its Faustian progressions.

The silken tone Shehori has refined finds a natural vehicle in Moriz Rosenthal’s playful Carnaval de Vienne (24 May 1979), an attempt to one-up Leopold Godowsky at his own three-hand effects, using elastic and whimsical chunks of Johann Strauss operetta as grist. When Shehori pours on the fff, watch out! An Israeli-born pianist with Vienna blood, a musical cosmopolite’s dream? Ask the delirious audience.

–Gary Lemco

 




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