WORKS: Suite,BWV1006a; Prélude;Gavotte en Rondeau; Gigue; Liebesfreud; Liebesleid; Six Pieces (4 hands), Op. 11; Two Pieces (6 hands)
PERFORMER: Vladimir Ashkenazy, Vovka Ashkenazy, Dòdy´ Ashkenazy (piano), Alastair Mackie (trumpet)
CATALOGUE NO: 470 291-2
Vladimir Ashkenazy’s recent solo recordings have drifted from the dutiful to the mediocre. Not this one. ‘This is how I used to do it,’ is the message, ‘and, by the way, I still can.’ Such relatively light-hearted fare (for him) finds him positively skittish in, for example, the foot-tapping Italian Polka for four hands and trumpet – and he is not above including ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ for the sake of completeness.
The opening Bach Partita movements and the Mendelssohn Scherzo are exuberantly executed with wonderfully shaded phrasing and clear voicing. In between them is ‘Wohin?’, sounding so unlike Rachmaninov and so similar to Godowsky that you wonder if the former was sending up the latter. If the Flight of the Bumble Bee lacks the nonchalance of Earl Wild or himself, the two transcriptions of Rachmaninov’s own songs are heart-melting. The Polka de WR for once receives its proper attribution as a transcription – of the Scherzpolka, Op. 303, by the obscure Franz Behr (1837-98) – even if Ashkenazy offers a somewhat prim view of the work compared with Cherkassky. But after so many dour discs, it is a pleasure to hear this great artist once again in a recital that lifts the spirits. Jeremy Nicholas