Verdi: Charmed with Verdi: arrangements

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Winter & Winter
WORKS: Charmed with Verdi: arrangements
PERFORMER: Fumio Yasuda (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 910 072-2
In 30-odd years of reviewing I’ve come across no more bizarre release than this. Very fancily and attractively packaged, almost like a mini-book of rather high quality, it’s subtitled ‘The Story of Alexander Schiffgen at the Mountain Sanatorium’. Who he, huh? Whoever he, he lived, apparently, in the early part of the 20th century, was of uncertain health, hence the sanatorium, and clearly enjoyed Verdi. In the whole elegantly produced book-cum-box, complete with evocative black-and-white, sepia and a few subtly coloured photographs, sporting minimal scrawls by said Schiffgen, there is not a word of enlightenment as to the identity of Schiffgen, Fumio Yasuda, the genesis of the recording, or indeed about much of anything. Track 1 begins with a protracted chorus of birdsong, eventually mixed with the sound of a distant string quartet, a crowd of people conversing in German, and a music box playing Wagner. No sign of a piano or Verdi anywhere, though the music box returns for a further four tracks and a lone violinist monopolises another, playing Schubert. Interspersed among these atmospheric but Sphinxian oddities are piano ‘adaptations’ of Verdi in a hotch-potch of styles, including jazz, played rather well by the mysterious ‘adapter’ Yasuda. A Christmas present, maybe. Jeremy Siepmann