Vanessa Benelli Mosell: [R]evolution
On paper, Vanessa Benelli Mosell’s ‘revolution/evolution’ concept seems provocative enough to draw attention. In reality, the thorny, intricate serial landscapes of Stockhausen’s shorter Klavierstücke relate to Stravinsky’s accordion-like piano-writing in the Three Movements from Petrushka like oil to water. Mosell studied the Stockhausen pieces with the composer, and his spirit must be smiling upon the pianist’s utmost precision in regard to dynamic scaling and rhythm. Yes, you’ll infer additional surface elegance from Stockhausen cycles by Bernard Wambach or Aloys Kontarsky, yet the cutting edge of Mosell’s loud, detached notes hits home.
In Petrushka’s ‘Danse russe’, Mosell’s nimble yet hectic fingerwork lacks the dynamic range, rhythmic control and textural characterisation of either Maurizio Pollini or Yuja Wang. The same goes for the melodic leaps and busy double notes in ‘Chez Pétrouchka’. Mosell fares much better in ‘La semaine grasse’, as she navigates the treacherous chordal jumps, arpeggio showers and pinpoint glissandos with effortless poise. However, she sacrifices both tonal heft and cumulative drama for speed. As a consequence, her interpretation sounds relatively small-scale when compared with Pollini’s layered detailing or the joyful orchestral sonorities that Arthur Rubinstein conjures up in his imperfect yet thrilling live Carnegie Hall performance.
A skilfully wrought (if somewhat derivative) suite by the contemporary French composer/pianist Karol Beffa bridges the Stockhausen and Stravinsky. His arpeggio-driven piano-writing resembles a mélange of late Debussy and middle-period Scriabin in the first two movements, while the third movement’s manic rag might be described as Schulhoff minus the tunes. Instead of the usual PR puffery that accompanies releases by new piano stars in the making, Decca provides excellent annotations that discuss the music seriously.