ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Meine Lieblingsstácke
PERFORMER: Mark Ehrenfried (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 98.410
Child prodigies have always existed, and been exploited. Perhaps it happens less often today than at earlier times. Mark Ehrenfried, recorded just before he turned ten, does sound like a child, because you can tell his hands are small and his muscular control not yet fully developed. Yet he can be amazingly mature in his knowing way of shaping a melody. But this ‘musicality’ isn’t consistent, so that one suspects that while the boy has been exceptionally well taught, he can’t quite assimilate it all, which is hardly surprising. The Classical pieces have their wobbly moments, but one of the best things is Schubert’s far from easy A flat Impromptu, after which one is unprepared for a rather heavy-handed ‘Spinning Song’ from Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words.
With the American Bronika Kushkuley, I soon forgot I was listening to a child. The first disc was recorded when she was ten, and the second was taken at live recitals she gave at the ages of 12 and (just) 13. On the earlier recording, she occasionally rushes, but otherwise my criticisms are probably best levelled at her teacher at the time, who nevertheless must be a remarkable woman. Schumann’s Abegg Variations are exquisitely done: not always literally, though what matters is that the girl makes them her own. She is deliciously seductive in Tchaikovsky’s Lullaby arranged by Rachmaninoff, and she is a good Bach player, too, which is confirmed on the second disc. Hopefully, her imaginative grasp of Chopin and Debussy will grow with time. Adrian Jack