WORKS: Suite for Two Violins, Cello & Piano Left Hand; Quintet in G for Two Violins, Viola, Cello & Piano Left Hand
PERFORMER: Leon Fleisher (piano), Joseph Silverstein, Jaime Laredo, Joel Smirnoff (violin), Michael Tree (viola), Yo-Yo Ma (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: SK 48253
Music for one-handed piano is naturally less well-known than music involving both hands. But begin to explore the astonishing range of music commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein – the celebrated pianist who lost his right arm during World War I – and some unexpected gems emerge. The latest is Korngold’s Suite for Two Violins, Cello and Piano Left Hand, which has come to CD at last. Fleisher, Silverstein, Laredo and Ma give a performance stamped with both authority and a deep appreciation of the combination of Viennese Romanticism and bursts of expressionist fantasy that was characteristic of Korngold at the time of this work. Their sweep, grandeur, beauty of tone and lightness of touch are exemplary. Equally crucially, they never lose sight of the work’s shape. The Suite can now take its rightful place as one of Korngold’s most significant chamber works. Further recordings of it are expected.
The Quintet by Schmidt (Fleisher, Silverstein and Ma are joined by Joel Smirnoff and Michael Tree) is another previously buried treasure. Lighter and more transparent in texture than the Korngold, this work harks back more to Bruckner and Brahms; its tone is lyrical, intense and utterly compelling. Schmidt wrote no fewer than six compositions for Wittgenstein, and one hopes that this recording will inspire their further exploration. Jessica Duchen