ALBUM TITLE: Tchaikovsky/Scharwenka: Joseph Moog
WORKS: Tchaikovsky: Grande sonate, Op. 37; Romanze, Op. 5; Aveu passionné; Scharwenka: Piano Sonata No. 2; Nos 1 & 2 from ‘Im Freien’, 5 Tonbilder Op. 38
PERFORMER: Joseph Moog (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ONYX 4126
Tchaikovsky’s sprawling G major Sonata has length while lacking in quality. Despite being championed by a handful of truly great virtuosos (most notably Sviatoslav Richter, Shura Cherkassky and Mikhail Pletnev), it has manfully failed to make friends, much less influence people. While it behoves us, I suppose, to heed to the arguments
of such stellar artists, they all in practice refute Alfred Brendel’s contention that you can’t play a piece better than it is. Had it not been by Tchaikovsky, I can’t help wondering, would this bombast even have made it into the 20th century (let alone into ours)?
For me, alas, it comes close to exemplifying all the worst excesses of Romantic piano music. Joseph Moog, obviously, disagrees, and gives a strong performance: rich and lavishly varied in sound, powerful, panoramically phrased with an impressive command of large-scale structure, and characterised with enough sleight-of-hand to persuade us (almost) that the Scherzo could even be the work of Schumann on an off day.
The Scharwenka, composed in 1877 and here receiving its second ever recording, is positively heroic in its obscurity, but deserves to be better known. Far more expertly crafted, and more pianistically idiomatic than Tchaikovsky’s quasi-orchestral floundering, it too receives a performance of exceptional polish, authority and conviction.