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CLASSICAL  March 2005

CLASSICAL March 2005

Subject:

Shostakovich Piano Recordings - Part 2 (Pizarro and Stone)

From:

Donald Satz <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 17 Mar 2005 04:46:32 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (80 lines)

   Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
              Works for Piano

24 Preludes, Op. 34
Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915)
24 Preludes, Op. 11
Artur Pizarro, piano
Recorded St. Paul's Church, Rusthall, Kent, March 1997
Collins Classics 14962 [68:30]

5 Preludes (1920-21)
Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 12
24 Preludes, Op. 34
Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 61
Colin Stone, piano
Recorded St. Philip's Church, Norbury, London, September 1995
Olympia OCD 574 [78:34]

Artur Pizarro is a highly regarded pianist who now records for Linn
Records and Naxos.  His discography has included Scriabin, Shostakovich,
Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Milhaud, and Rodrigo.  As it happens, this
disc of Russian piano music contains the same program as the Marta
Deyanova disc I favorably reviewed in Part 1.

There is a vast difference between Pizarro's version of the Scriabin
Preludes and the one from Marta Deyanova, and it is all in Deyanova's
favor.  She realizes that these Scriabin pieces have abundant beauty
on their own and need no coaxing from the performer; Pizarro appears
to believe that they need special pleading with excessive use of the
sustaining pedal that gives the music a backwards look to prime-time
romanticism.  Deyanova knows that an underlying tension is ever-present
in Scriabin's sound world; Pizarro plays the pieces as if beauty alone
will win the day.  Deyanova conveys Scriabin's eroticism, Pizarro only
his romanticism.  He plays Scriabin's notes in a soothing and luxurious
manner; Deyanova gives the music a wider palette of colors, shapes, and
emotions.  As so often in modern-era recordings of Scriabin's piano
music, Pizarro's version tells us more about the pianist than the composer.
I'll pass on it, although I won't deny its generic charms.

I may be negative about Pizarro's Scriabin, but that's just a fraction
of my annoyance with his Shostakovich performances.  It's one thing to
drag Scriabin backwards to the heart of the Romantic era, but attempting
the same to Shostakovich strikes me as a perverse endeavor.  Where's the
Slavic element, The Soviet mentality, the brash/youthful nature of the
music, the sudden changes in dynamics/tempo/texture?  Missing in action
and replaced by thoroughly bland performances that are merely attractive.
If you're looking for high quality generic piano playing, Pizarro is
your man; otherwise, keep your distance.  Since the recording and Collins
Classics are no longer in print, distance shouldn't be difficult to
achieve.

After Pizarro, Colin Stone's disc is like a breath of fresh Russian air
with highly masculine and rather serious/contemplative interpretations.
His performance of the Op.  34 Preludes is very good, but I have a slight
reservation concerning the 'spark' in his reading.  He really comes into
his own with the two piano sonatas where his muscular approach, exceptional
voice interaction, and rhythmic vitality play perfectly into the music's
nature.

A little bonus offered by Stone is the early Five Preludes written in
1920-21 while Shostakovich was in academic training.  To say that these
pieces do not reflect the Shostakovich sound world is putting it mildly,
since the composer had no particular sound world as a teenager.  A couple
of the pieces have the stamp of Prokofiev, and the other three reflect
strong 19th Century influences.  Yet, they are more than pleasant and a
fine addition to Stone's disc.  He plays them expertly and with stronger
articulation than the famous Vladimir Ashkenazy on a recent Decca recording
of Shostakovich piano pieces.

Don's Conclusions: Suffice it to say that Artur Pizarro needs to keep
his hands off Russian piano scores.  However, the Colin Stone disc is a
winner from start to finish and backed up by a clear and crisp soundstage.
This Olympia disc might not be easy to locate, but it would be worth
every minute of the search.  Stone is a young pianist without a large
following, but his Shostakovich is highly desireable.  Coming up is Part
3 that will deal with power-packed Shostakovich interpretations that are
always compelling, if not exactly faithful to the scores.

Don Satz
[log in to unmask]

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