Gottschalk: Piano music

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COMPOSERS: Gottschalk
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano music
PERFORMER: Philip Martin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67248
Not even his greatest advocates would claim that Gottschalk was a major composer, or indeed deny that he was in fact a very minor composer, but that doesn’t mean that his music can’t give listeners, and pianists come to that, a lot of pleasure – especially when performed with the kind of good-natured charm and stylish saloniste swagger that Philip Martin brings to much of his playing here. But even he has trouble concealing the astonishing banality of, for instance, Gottschalk’s cha-cha-cha accompaniments in things like the étude de concert Bataille. It would take a pianist of the order of the great Ignaz Friedman or the Liszt-pupil Moritz Rosenthal to really bring this kind of stuff off as anything better than a lot of pianistic claptrap. This is the fifth instalment of Martin’s complete cycle of Gottschalk’s solo piano music, and there are moments when it seems as though he’s lost any real interest in pursuing this ultimately archival goal. But just as you start stifling yawns he’ll suddenly turn up trumps and play with a quite delightful freshness and bounce. Alfred Brendel has famously said that you can’t play a piece better than it is. Listening to this release, one can only ask ‘Oh, yeah?’ Jeremy Siepmann

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