Godowsky’s (mostly) Lighter Side

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

The 12th volume of Konstantin Scherbakov’s ongoing Leopold Godowsky cycle primarily features shorter original works and transcriptions of German art songs. Compared to his elaborate Chopin Etudes paraphrases, Godowsky’s reworkings of songs by Schumann, Brahms, Schubert, and Böhm are relatively restrained and technically manageable, although the Strauss/Godowsky Ständchen’s intricate filigree requires, shall we say, a little practice to master it well.

As always, Scherbakov is in complete command, technically and musically. His sense of textural foreground and background particularly shines in the Six Waltz-Poems for left hand alone, while his firm articulation and rhythmic drive in the Op. 11 No. 1 Concert Study prove more interesting than the actual music. These qualities also describe Scherbakov’s bravura performance of the Weber Perpetuum Mobile, where Godowsky piles more technical hurdles on top of that composer’s already challenging First Sonata Rondo finale. In Godowsky’s hands, Weber’s Invitation to the Dance gets swallowed up into a huge contrapuntal paraphrase, packed with chromatic reharmonizations and garish inner voices. Somehow Scherbakov’s straightforward elegance and stylish poise prevent the music from sounding overloaded. Marco Polo’s engineering has measurably improved over the course of this cycle, and piano mavens will appreciate Keith Anderson’s informative booklet notes.

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Recording Details:

    Six Waltz-Poems for the Left Hand; Concert study Op. 11 No. 1; Transcriptions
  • Konstantin Scherbakov (piano)

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