WORKS: MacDowell: Woodland Sketches; Janácek: On an Overgrown Path, Book 1; Schumann: Waldszenen
PERFORMER: Richard Saxel (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: QTZ 2076
During the Romantic era the forest became an especially potent image for composers who longed to retreat from the harsh realities of increased urbanisation. A similar sense of longing binds all three works featured in this warmly engineered release, but other more sinister images of the forest are also prevalent, in particular mystery, anxiety and danger.
Saxel’s delicately nuanced playing, captured in a warm but clear sound, certainly conveys both the intimacy and longing that epitomise his chosen character pieces. If there are occasional moments in Schumann’s Waldszenen where the phrasing seems a little stiff and prosaic, this is more than compensated by the spellbindingly eerie account of ‘Vogel als Prophet’ and the warmly affectionate shaping of the line in ‘Abschied’.
No quibbles about Saxel’s finely nuanced account of MacDowell’s Woodland Sketches. These unpretentious miniatures, heavily indebted to Grieg in terms of their harmonic style, are played here in a relatively straightforward and refreshingly unsentimental manner. Likewise in On an Overgrown Path Saxel demonstrates a sensitive understanding of the composer’s idiosyncratic means of expression. Erik Levi