David's Review Corner
, March 2010
It has my vote as one of the most charming piano discs issued over the past decade, Leopold Godowsky’s pastiche of waltz styles so beautifully disingenuous. Described as ‘24 Fantasias in Triple Time for Piano’, Walzermasken is a series of short cameos written in the style of illustrious pianist-composers of the time including Brahms, Schumann, Chopin and the Viennese ‘waltz king’, Johann Strauss. Some are melodically quite simple, but the great virtuoso pianist could hardly restrain himself in the desire to make them showpieces for his own remarkable virtuosity. Born in Poland in 1870, he was an infant prodigy both as a pianist and composer, and after creating much interest in Europe, he took the United States by storm. He later settled there for many years, only to resume his hectic international tours in his fifties. It was a stroke that brought it to an end at the age of sixty, and from therein he pinned his hopes of lasting recognition on his substantial number of compositions and arrangements. Walzermasken (Waltz Masks) were published in 1912, the opening Karneval a real ‘show-stopper’, though turn to track 16 for a whirl of fingers as they dance through the Perpetuum mobile. The performance from Konstantin Scherbakov has that feel of a pianist enjoying every minute, the technical challenges dispatched with deceptive ease, the big finale—a Portrait of Johann Strauss —a suitable waltz extravaganza. The disc ends with the Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes of Johann Strauss, Three Waltz Paraphrases.I. Artists’ Life, a long title describing a score almost a quarter of an hour long. It is high on brilliance, though Godowsky does keep back the big tune right until the end. The sound quality is outstandingly good.