COMPOSERS: Leopold Godowsky
ALBUM TITLE: Godowsky: 22 Chopin Studies
WORKS: 22 Chopin Studies
PERFORMER: Ivan Ilić
CATALOGUE NO: PARATY
Leopold Godowsky’s 53 Studies on Chopin’s Etudes hold a unique place in the piano repertoire. Godowsky usually refocused Chopin’s technical demands, transferring them from the right hand on to the weaker left. He took this to an extreme in his 22 Studies composed for left hand alone. His ingenious writing requires great skill in pedalling and voicing as well as eye-watering technique and stamina, largely disguising the fact that only one hand is playing.
The difficulties are notorious. Ilic´ writes candidly in his booklet notes: ‘Despite a serviceable technique, I was ill-equipped for Godowsky… I confess I have spent more hours working on Godowsky’s Studies than I have spent on any other music in my entire life.’ The hard work has paid dividends, especially in the more lyrical Studies where Ilic´ projects a nice sense of line and finely judged pedalling. Yet even with broad tempos, he can never quite rise above the technical demands, unlike Marc-André Hamelin in his complete recording, or Boris Berezovsky in his selection, which is interspersed with the original Chopin models. Listen to Hamelin in, say, the Revolutionary Etude, or Berezovsky in the C sharp minor after Op. 10 No. 4, and the technical labours of Ilic´’s playing are shown in harsh reality. The sound, as if to match the playing, is also lacking bloom.