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am 4. April 2010
This is the tenth in the excellent series of all of Godowsky's piano works as played and recorded by Konstantin Scherbakov. I have reviewed several others in the series Godowsky: Schubert Transcriptions,Leopold Godowsky: Java Suite; Wine, Women and Song,Leopold Godowsky: Transcriptions of Bach Cello Suites Nos. 2, 3, 5,Piano Music 9: Chopin Waltz Transcriptions, et al. I have liked all of them to varying degrees, mostly quite positively.

This disc contains, in addition to the 14-minute 'Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes of Johann Strauss' (about which more later) a set called 'Walzermasken: 24 Tonfantasien in Dreivierteltakt für Klavier' ('Waltz Masques: 24 Tone Fantasies in Three-Quarter Time'), written in 1912 and dedicated to Dr. Wilhelm Stekel, a psychoanalyst associated with but soon falling out with Sigmund Freud. As a retired psychiatrist I am curious to know what Godowsky's relationship with Stekel was, but have not found anything about it. The Waltz Masques were published in four books of six pieces each and since Amazon has not listed them I shall. The composer's names in parentheses provided the inspirations, both emotional and musical, for the piece listed:

Book I
1. Karneval, E major (Schumann)
2. Pastell, A major (Schubert)
3. Skizze, E major (Brahms)
4. Momento capriccioso, C-sharp minor
5. Berceuse, D-flat major
6. Kontraste, B-flat minor

Book II
7. Profil, B-flat minor (Chopin)
8. Silhouette, F-sharp minor-major (Liszt)
9. Satire, B major
10. Karikatur, G major
11. Tyll Ulenspiegel, F-sharp major
12. Legende, E-flat minor

Book III
13. Humoreske, B-flat major (on 4 Noten)
14. Französisch, D major
15. Elegie, B minor
16. Perpetuum mobile, G major
17. Menuett, E-flat major
18. Schuhplattler, C major

Book IV
19. Valse macabre, C minor
20. Abendglocken (Angelus), A-flat major (on the 25th anniversary of Franz Liszt's death)
21. Orientale, F minor
22. Wienerisch, F major
23. Eine Sage, B-flat minor
24. Portrait, G-flat major (J. Strauss II)

In general these 'Waltz Masques' are Viennese in effect and virtuosic in execution. Scherbakov, himself a winner of the 1983 Rachmaninov Competition, performs them with aplomb and musical insight.

The final work on the disc, the longest of these, is the first of the 'Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes of Johann Strauss -- Three Waltz Paraphrases for Piano.' This one is based on 'Künstlerleben' ('Artists' Life'). It is virtuosic in the extreme and makes much creative use of Strauss's varied themes.

Seventy-five minutes of music in waltz time may be too much for one meal, but if one listens to these works a few at a time, they begin to become distinguishable from each other and each has its own felicities. I particularly liked Carnival ('Karneval') which is a pastiche of Schumann's style in his 'Carnaval' suite; 'Profil', a Chopin waltz in mood and beauty; 'Tyll Ulenspiegal', which has no similarity except for its sassiness, to Richard Strauss's tone poem; and the Perpetuum mobile and the Minuet. And I adore the 'Artists' Life' recomposition.

Worth your attention.

Scott Morrison
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