Classical CD Reviews

“Ingolf Wunder 300” = SCARLATTI: Sonata in B Minor; MOZART: Piano Sonata in B-flat Major; CHOPIN: Berceuse in D-flat Major; KOCZALSKI: Valse fantastique; LISZT: Csardas macabre; DEBUSSY: Clair de Lune; RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Flight of the Bumblebee; RACHMANINOV: Prelude in G Minor; SCRIABIN: Etude in D-sharp Minor; MOSZKOWSKI: Etincelles; HOROWITZ: Danse excentrique; MOZART: Rondo alla Turca – Paraphrase; MORRICONE: Playing Love; WILLIAMS: Star Wars: Main Title – Ingolf Wunder, piano – DGG

An engaging, blithely entertaining display of prowess and poetry by Ingolf Wunder in his second album for DGG.

Published on March 8, 2013

Ingolf Wunder 300” = SCARLATTI: Sonata in B Minor, K. 87; MOZART: Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, K. 333; CHOPIN: Berceuse in D-flat Major, Op. 57; KOCZALSKI: Valse fantastique in B Minor, Op. 49; LISZT: Csardas macabre; DEBUSSY: Clair de Lune; RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Flight of the Bumblebee; RACHMANINOV: Prelude in G Minor, Op. 23, No. 5; SCRIABIN: Etude in D-sharp Minor, Op. 8, No. 12; MOSZKOWSKI: Etincelles; HOROWITZ: Danse excentrique; MOZART: Rondo alla Turca – Paraphrase; MORRICONE: Playing Love; WILLIAMS: Star Wars: Main Title – Ingolf Wunder, piano – DGG 479 0084, 72:44 [Distr. by Universal] ****:

Frankly, I tend to avoid any musical ‘wunderkind,’ with its obviously ironic shade, given Ingolf Wunder (b. 1985) and his appearance No. 300 (June 2012) before an audience, of which this album serves as commemorative. I must applaud, however, the degree of sensitivity Wunder can exhibit in the more sober music of Scarlatti’s B Minor Sonata and Mozart’s B-flat Major Sonata, a rather sparkling affair, actually. The tempos remain moderate, and the musical line enjoys a seamless rounded blend of legato and gently acerbic accents. The Andante cantabile, especially, basks in a subdued, poetic lyricism that projects a sincere, genial spirit. A slight marcato lifts the poise and Viennese joie imbued in the final Allegretto grazioso, whose faster passages do not tempt Wunder into false display. For the poetic side of Wunder’s keyboard personality, certainly Debussy’s long-familiar Clair de Lune breathes and sighs with romantic ardor, just within the limits of refined taste.

The gentler virtuoso in Wunder finds equally charming fare in Chopin’s marvelous study in harmonic-rhythm, his D-flat Berceuse, played intelligently and cannily, though not so immediately lustrous and incandescent as versions by Solomon and Cortot. The little Valse fantastique by Chopin acolyte Raoul Koczalski (1884-1948) admits a delicate grace that strums as well as lilts its fine points. In Rachmaninov’s arrangement, the Flight of the Bumblebee achieves an elfin speed and tingling excitement that caresses rather than thunders through the pollen. The first touches of bombast and pure technique begin at Rachmaninov’s G Minor Prelude, though its middle section sings with articulated sweetness.

A few cuts prior to the Rachmaninov, Wunder had explored convincingly some harmonic and imaginative labyrinths in Liszt’s 1882  Csardas macabre, a weirdly “formal” piece that remains tonal while driving its angular gypsy style into regions that Bartok would exploit more fully in his own time. Pure passion reigns in Scriabin’s D-sharp Minor Etude, an ardent Horowitz staple. So, too, the element of fire emanates from another Horowitz favorite, the Etincelles of piano pedagogue Moritz Moskowski, light-fingered staccato etude if ever there were. No grand leap, then, to the master Horowitz himself, his Danse excentrique, a post-Debussy cakewalk in the style of a Russian sophisticate. Wunder performs the piece the way Noel Coward might have parodied Chevalier.

The final trilogy of pieces celebrates the rabble-rouser in Wunder, cheeky and decidedly spectacular. The Arcadi Volodos arrangement of Mozart’s Rondo from the Sonata, K. 331 takes harmonic flight and never quite reaches normal gravity. Well, Horowitz had his Stars and Stripes Forever. . .Now that the piano has expressed its orchestral ambitions, Wunder can investigate two movie scores, the first from Morricone’s The Legend of 1900, a blend of bluesy energy and parlando love song. For his grand finale, Wunder chooses John Williams’ famed adaptation of Gustav Holst, his Star Wars title theme, a head-spinner rife with arpeggio laser beams. The arrangement, by Wunder and Martin Romberg is just one chord away from Holst’s Mars, the piano sound reverberant with Wunder’s musical “force.”  [But don’t these last two tracks (probably not Wunder’s idea) sort of beg the question of the previous selections and cry out for big public sales for his label? A bit too wunderful for me...Ed.]

—Gary Lemco




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