Classical CD Reviews

Silke Avenhaus – “Salon Chromatique et Harmonique” = WAGNER: Sonata in A-flat Major for Madame M.W. ; Isoldens Liebestod (arr. Liszt); LISZT: Seven brilliant Variations on a Theme by Rossini; Soirees de Vienne – Caprices After Franz Schubert: Nostalgic Waltz; Li Marinari from Soirees musicales de Rossini; R.W. – Venezia; La lugubre Goldola No. 1; Apres une lecture du Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata; ROSSINI: Une caresse a ma femme; Valse lugubre No. 4 – Silke Avenhaus, piano – BR Klassik

A musical soiree of poignancy and power, embracing Rossini, Liszt, and Wagner in their respective keyboard personae.

Published on February 16, 2013

Silke Avenhaus – “Salon Chromatique et Harmonique” = WAGNER: Sonata in A-flat Major for Madame M.W. ; Isoldens Liebestod (arr. Liszt); LISZT: Seven brilliant Variations on a Theme by Rossini; Soirees de Vienne – Caprices After Franz Schubert: Nostalgic Waltz; Li Marinari from Soirees musicales de Rossini; R.W. – Venezia; La lugubre Goldola No. 1; Apres une lecture du Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata; ROSSINI: Une caresse a ma femme; Valse lugubre No. 4 – Silke Avenhaus, piano – BR Klassik

Silke Avenhaus – “Salon Chromatique et Harmonique” = WAGNER: Sonata in A-flat Major for Madame M.W. ; Isoldens Liebestod (arr. Liszt); LISZT: Seven brilliant Variations on a Theme by Rossini; Soirees de Vienne – Caprices After Franz Schubert: Nostalgic Waltz; Li Marinari from Soirees musicales de Rossini; R.W. – Venezia; La lugubre Goldola No. 1; Apres une lecture du Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata; ROSSINI: Une caresse a ma femme; Valse lugubre No. 4 – Silke Avenhaus, piano – BR Klassik 8553262, 70:03 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:

Pianist Silke Avenhaus counts Bianca Bodalia, Klaus Schilde, and Gyorgy Sebok among her teachers, and she has organized a “salon” (rec. November 2011) to include Wagner, Liszt, and Rossini as exponents of a rarified keyboard tradition, especially since Wagner and Rossini generally avoided piano composition in favor of their idiosyncratic theatrical productions. She opens with Richard Wagner’s A-flat Major Sonata of c. 1853, meant to flatter Frau M.W. (Mathilde Wesendonck). In one “experimental” movement, the music glides sweetly in Schubertian lyrics and soft tremolos under glistening arpeggios. Avenhaus takes the more familiar love-death from Tristan in the Liszt arrangement very slowly, milking the ivy and the vine for all their intrinsic eroticism. The streaming pearls of sound reach their inevitable, ineluctable culmination in torrents of sound, elastic and cascading in an exalted harmonic stratosphere.

Since Liszt had met Rossini in 1822 and proceeded in 1837 to inscribe a set of Soirees musicales, arrangements of eight arias and four duets, Avenhaus sees fit to exploit Li Marinari (“The Sailors”) as a vehicle for the depiction of the calm felt by those who have survived natural dangers on the high seas.  Liszt’s passing dissonances deserve a treatise for themselves. The cantilena that evolves soon swaggers with the same energies we know from Hungarian Rhapsodies. The Rossini Variations presents Liszt in his most exuberant imitation of the Chopin style, especially in the alternation of keyboard registers, the lyrically galloping filigree in variation, and the clear influence of polonaise rhythm.

Those who perform the Soirees de Vienne of Liszt tend to gravitate to the No. 6, but Avenhaus chooses the last of the set, No. 9, which opens with some audacious harmonies that do not sit easily in a key until they resolve around A-flat Major. The waltz theme rocks and saunters wistfully, an elegy to a bygone age. Marked sehnsucht (longing), the lilting, broken filigree smiles through its tears. Rossini contributes a “sin of [his] old age” in the form of Une caresse a ma femme, marked Andantino, a serenade we know from its orchestral translation into La Boutique fantasque, courtesy of Ottorino Respighi. Both R.W. – Venezia (1883) and La lugubre Gondola No. 1 (1885) convey a grim morbidity in Wagner’s demise, “intimations of mortality,” to paraphrase Wordsworth. The rocking waters of the “City of Lagoons” stir disturbed visions in small melodic cells that adumbrate Schoenberg with hazy audacity. On the other hand, as it were, Rossini’s Valse lugubre No. 4 (Allegretto) communicates an ambivalence of sentiment, a dirge set in ¾ time.

Finally, Ms. Avenhaus “descends into the depths” by way of Dante Alighieri, here in Liszt’s extended meditation that ends his second Year of Pilgrimage in Italy. A convulsive, emotionally evocative piece grandly alternating between D Minor and F-sharp Major, the so-called Dante Sonata (c. 1839; rev. 1858) asserts Liszt’s most typical ecstasies of Hell and Heaven. Avenhaus maintains a fervently tight grip on the dynamic and textural progressions in this daunting work, softening the percussive aspects to insinuate the great compassion that infiltrate even Liszt’s most demonic conceptions. Avenhaus has imbibed Liszt’s sojourns for truth, literary, musical, and imaginative, with an ardor and plastic sense of style thoroughly consonant with the high ambitions she sets for her soirees.

—Gary Lemco




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