Godowsky: Walzermasken – excerpts; Triakontameron – excerpts; Symphonic Metamorphoses – on Künstlerleben; on Wein, Weib und Gesang; on Die Fledermaus; The Last Waltz

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Godowsky
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Godowsky
WORKS: Walzermasken – excerpts; Triakontameron – excerpts; Symphonic Metamorphoses – on Künstlerleben; on Wein, Weib und Gesang; on Die Fledermaus;
The Last Waltz
PERFORMER: Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67626

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‘Shallowly brilliant drawing-room pieces of a virtuoso cast…’ No, this is not an envious put-down of the egregious Leopold Godowsky, it’s actually his own dismissal of the works of a contemporary who had had the temerity to trespass on the Polish pianist-composer’s territory by also transcribing the waltzes of Johann Strauss II. Virtuosity, said Godowsky, was the least part of the ‘Metamorphoses’ he worked on Strauss: ‘Everything in them is developed out of Strauss’s own music in an endeavour to build up a living, pulsing, colourful transformation… Hear Josef Hofmann play the Fledermaus symphonic metamorphosis and you will understand.’Hearing Marc-André Hamelin playing it here, we do indeed. The first two minutes smoulder and crackle in an almost Lisztian manner, but once the work gets underway we can sense the physical movements and heel-clickings as it prepares for dazzling flight. There’s no need for analogies about a surfeit of Viennese cream-cakes with this excellent CD: the musical invention is so brilliant and varied, and the performance so coruscating, that one’s attention is firmly held. The liner note is genuinely illuminating. Michael Church