SIBELIUS: Piano Music
Leif Ove Andsnes, piano
SONY 88985408502 TT: 67 min.

GRANADOS: Goyescas
José Menor, piano
IBS CD 72917 TT: 66:10

NIETZSCHE: Piano Music
Jeroen Van Veen, piano

BEETHOVEN: 32 Variations in C minor. SCHUBERT: Impromptu in G flat Op. 90 No. 3. MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition. CHOPIN: Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52. DEBUSSY: Sérénade a la poupée, Etude pour les huit doigts. LISZT: Funerailles. RACHMANINOFF: Prelude in G, Op. 32 No.5. Prelude in G minort, Op. 23 No. 5. SCARLATTI: Sonata in A K. 322.

Leif Ove Andsnes included an Etude by Sibelius on his Warner Classics collection of piano music (Warner 4168), and now we have an entire well-filled disk of a wide variety of that composer's solo piano works. Sibelius reportedly did not like the piano and found it to be an "unresponsive instrument" Yet one would never suspect that listening to this pleasing collection of 24 brief, varied works. There are no pianistic fireworks here, just simple, unassuming tunes and melodies that often are quite beautiful. Andsnes obviously believes in them, and shows them to great advantage. Most of this music will be new to listeners, and it is worth investigating. Recordings were made in Berlin's Teldex Studio December 2016. Excellent audio. For the Finnish composer at his most inspired, check out his songs, particularly the recordings by Nilsson and Flagstad, and, to further digress, check out the YouTube live performance by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf of Luonnotar recorded in Helsinki, which the famed soprano stated was her finest performance.

Composed in 1911, and inspired by paintings of Francesco Goya, Goyescas is Granados' masterpiece for the piano. Several years later, Granados composed an opera with the same name, utilizing some music from the piano suite. Many famous pianists have recorded Goyescas including Garrick Ohlsson, and Alicia de Laroccha who has multiple recordings. Now we have this new disc featuring young pianist José Menor who has won his share of prizes. He has a particular interest in Granddos and, with assistance from members of the Granados family, was able to research original manuscripts of the composer's scores. He found some slight differences and I assume these are reflected in his new recording. Another plus is the world premiere recording of an introspective work called Twilight, as well as an improvisation recorded by the composer in 1916, transcribed from the original recording. Also included is an improvisation on the Intermezzo from the opera Goyescas. Menor has performed this music in many major concert venues including Carnegie Hall, and his performance surely is among the best, with the advantage of rich recorded sound.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 - 1900) was a German philosopher, poet, cultural critic and author whose work had an enormous influence during his era. His philosophical writings were respected and inspired other artists, un particular Richard Strauss, who wrote his magnificent symphonic poem Also sprach Zarathustrabased on Nietzsche's famous epic. Nietzsche also was a composer, although his musical achievements didn't amount to much. Some of his lieder have been recorded by major artists, and there are several recordings of his music for solo piano including this new Brilliant Classics CD. Earlier in his career, Nietzsche associated with Wagner, but the latter did not wish to continue his musical association with the philosopher doubtless finding little of interest in his musical thoughts. This disk contains 19 brief piano pieces that are prosaic at best. It is easy to understand why major pianists don't bother with them.Ther are several recordings of Nietzsche's piano music on YouTube. Check those out before investing in this new CD.

Pristine's second disk of live performances by Vladimir Horowitz recorded in Carnegie Hall continues with a concert April 2, 1948. This site recently mentioned Volume I, recorded February 2, 1948 (REVIEW). Volume II again offers pianistic fireworks highlighted by the Horowitz's own transcription of Pictures at an Exhibition. Only the Schubert Impromptu is repeated from the earlier concert, and we also also have the works listed above. The concert would not fit onto a single disk, so the encores (Chopin Nocturne in F sharp, Mozart Turkish Rondo and Horowitz's arrangement of The Stars nd Stripes Forever), are available from the Pristine website. Producer Andrew Rose has done his usual fine job in remastering, and even was able to recreate the entire performance of the Scarlatti sonata. The first 12 bars were not recorded. This music is repeated later in the piece, and Rose was able to masterfully edit this to replace the missing opening. Surely admirers of this phenomenal pianist will wish to investigate both of these Pristine disks which offer performances never before issued.

R.E.B. (November 2017)