GODOWSKY Piano Music Vol 12
The end is in sight: 12 down, three to go. Scherbakov’s Herculean task of recording all of Leopold Godowsky’s music continues with this nicely varied selection of early and late original works, and transcriptions that range in difficulty from straightforward simplicity to technically treacherous. Not that there is ever anything of the page-turning slog to this unique project. Each piece, played with no little affection, is wonderfully well characterised to show these largely forgotten works in the best possible light.
And Godowsky the transcriber is shown at his best in Richard Strauss’s ‘Ständchen’ and Carl Bohm’s ‘Still wie die Nacht’. Here he seeks merely to offer a faithful reflection of the vocal line and accompaniment of these songs through sheer pianistic ingenuity. The last works he completed are the straightforward Four Piano Transcriptions of German Lieder (two by Schubert, one each of Schumann and Brahms) dating from 1937. On the other hand, Godowsky’s contrapuntal take on Invitation to the Dance makes outlandish demands with its artful thematic combinations and cheeky modulations. One has to be familiar with Weber’s original before fully appreciating Godowsky’s mischievous treatment and, to fully enjoy it, not troubled by the loss of its light-headed gaiety. The same goes for the Perpetuum mobile from Weber’s C major Sonata, which, by piling Pelion upon Ossa, means it is physically impossible to play at the original presto (3'15" is the average time). Scherbakov clocks in at an amazing 4'39", even faster than the great Grigory Ginzburg’s 1950s recording (4'50").
Of the other works, of by far the most interest are the Six Waltz-Poems for the Left Hand Alone, immeasurably more attractive than the leaden Suite for the Left Hand on Vol 11 (A/13). Godowsky, not anything like such a gifted melodist as his friend Rachmaninov, here dreams up some attractive ideas that vie with his most successful waltz, Alt Wien.