GODOWSKY Passacaglia, 4 Poems & Transcriptions
For an entrée into the polyphonic world of Godowsky, Emanuele Delucchi’s programme could hardly be bettered – a representative, nicely varied selection, played, intriguingly, on a 1906 Steinway.
First impressions of the young Italian are promising, with the opening of the Passacaglia warmly mellow and paced at a proper andante moderato. Soon, however, niggles set in: dynamics and voicing are often too generalised (listen to Vars 7 and 9, for example), though Delucchi can certainly get around the keyboard (this Passacaglia comes in at a fast-ish 15'10"). I wondered whether at times the period instrument was a help or a hindrance with tone production. At any rate, it doesn’t sing like the piano on which Marc-André Hamelin recorded the Passacaglia back in 1988, and the Canadian is able to unravel Godowsky’s polyphonic web with markedly more finesse.
The elaborate textures of the Schubert songs sound more like Brahms than they need to, though ‘Gute Nacht’ is nicely done – Delucchi has obviously benefited from studying Godowsky’s own recording – as is the delicate touch he brings to the little Canzonetta from Godard’s Concerto romantique (only its second recording). In the other transcriptions Hamelin again (Hyperion, 9/08) is more refined in ‘Ständchen’ (R Strauss) and sensuous in the Tango (Albéniz). The Four Poems invite some of the Italian’s best playing, with little of the harsh tone at forte and above that creeps in elsewhere. The best performance on the disc is ‘Wein, Weib und Gesang’, showing great technical accomplishment and a relaxed, assured empathy with both Strauss and Godowsky (he takes the same cut of 56 bars in the D flat section as Shura Cherkassky, with whom the work was a great favourite). ‘Alt Wien’ forms a charming coda to the programme.
So, though not completely successful, a talent and programme very worthwhile investigating. Note to Piano Classics: de mangle the English of your booklets. Your label and artists and my native language deserve better.