Gottschalk: Piano Music, Vol. 7

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COMPOSERS: Gottschalk
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Music, Vol. 7
PERFORMER: Philip Martin (piano)
Although at this stage of his Gottschalk survey Philip Martin is playing less well-known pieces, his enthusiasm is as evident as when he started out almost 15 years ago – which is just as well. If this high-class 19th-century salon music wasn’t played with involvement and refinement it would amount to little more than a series of well-judged pianistic devices. For instance, apart from moments of harmonic quirkiness and an occasional foretaste of syncopated, almost ragtime rhythms, there are decorative roulades in the right hand, in The Water Sprite and Forget me not, while the left hand defines a dance rhythm (polka or mazurka). And then there are waltzes, studies, Cuban dances, poetic romances and heroic caprices. There’s also a more adventurous – for its time – imitation of the banjo in Deuxième banjo. To all of them Martin brings an acute sense of timing and balance, effortlessly focusing the tune, decoration and accompaniment in Madeleine, and using affectionate rubato to keep the musical line alive in The Dying Swan. There’s virtuosity in the plethora of notes in the variations on ‘God Save the Queen’ and the extended fantasy on the ‘Battle Cry of Freedom’, and all the dance rhythms are crisp – as is the recording. Martin Cotton