Godowsky: Piano Sonata in E minor

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Pro Piano
WORKS: Piano Sonata in E minor
PERFORMER: Adam Aleksander (piano)
Life’s tough for practically everyone in the record market these days. Almost simultaneously, APR and Pearl release independent remasterings of Louis Kentner’s long-absent traversal of Liapunov’s Études, and now Godowsky’s vast and elderly Sonata, long out of the catalogue, suddenly appears twice over. The London Bus Syndrome. It’s sheer bad luck that Aleksander’s highly impressive account should arrive hard on the heels of Hamelin’s breathtakingly brilliant one (reviewed in April), but that shouldn’t be allowed to detract from its quality. He is a masterly pianist, well up to the work’s formidable pianistic and interpretative challenges, and he’s given an excellent recording – vibrant, close, but not clinically so, and with none of that all-too-common suggestion of a large, empty hall. Both sensitive and commanding, he combines a wide colouristic palette with a powerful grasp of structure and a keen ear for Godowsky’s compulsive polyphony, without which this sprawling, late-Romantic odyssey wouldn’t stand a chance. But are we really to believe the booklet that the work’s near-total neglect over nine decades is attributable to its technical difficulty? Aleksander and Hamelin are outstanding virtuosi, but are they more capable than Horowitz, Hofmann, Gould, Michelangeli, Pollini, Richter, Argerich or Cherkassky, to name a random but wide-ranging few? Or could the reason be musical? Jeremy Siepmann