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Homage to Godowsky

Andrey Gugnin (piano) (Hyperion)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Homage to Godowsky
Piano works by Blumenfeld, Chasins, Friedman, Gabrilowitsch, Hofmann, Holbrooke et al
Andrey Gugnin (piano)
Hyperion CDA68310   80:31 mins

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Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938) is best known for his series of 53 Studies on Chopin’s Etudes, which include highly complex pieces for left hand only. Godowsky was a remarkable pianist and pedagogue – and inspired many composers to write for him. This collection features a handful of those works, released to mark the sesquicentenary of Godowsky’s birth.

Although several big names – including Rachmaninov – dedicated music to Godowsky, here pianist Andrey Gugnin has chosen to focus on some of the more obscure works, many of which are premiere recordings. The Scherzo-Étude by Italian Pirani (dedicated to Godowsky in 1901) is a case in point: the score was tracked down in Berlin by Jeremy Nicholas, author of Godowsky: The Pianist’s Pianist especially for this project. This is one of several exquisite miniatures; see also Chasins’s Prelude and Szántó’s study (gorgeous encore pieces, should any enterprising pianists feel up to the challenge).

Blumenfeld’s Étude pour la main gauche seule takes its influence from Godowsky’s compositions for left hand. Gugnin’s masterful fluidity in the scurrying passages is impressive; so is the judicious use of pedal. As with the subsequent Gabrilowitsch study, it’s difficult to believe that this music is performed by just five digits.

Josef Hofmann’s Charakterskizzen comprise the largest chunk of the programme; appropriately, because the composer was a lifelong friend of Godowsky. Gugnin brings out the Chopinesque colours in ‘Vision’ and ‘Nenien’, while ‘Jadis’ is more playful. The sound quality is pristine throughout.

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Claire Jackson