Leopold Godowsky’s legacy of fiendishly difficult piano pieces continues to fascinate virtuoso pianists, though this sixth volume concentrates on his light-weight salon pieces. They are very much from that era when pianists played in fashionable restaurants with pleasing extemporisations that included a few popular melodies. That particularly applies to the Chopin arrangements where Godowsky amuses himself in filling out the texture of the original work, at times almost doodling on a well-loved melody. Only in the final Grande Valse Brillant, do we enter Godowsky’s world of extrovert showmanship with hands flying around the keyboard in the most elaborate decoration. Such pastiches do amuse and please, particularly on first hearing, and they must have delighted Godowsky’s audiences as one of the world’s great pianists. They are played here by one of today’s admired virtuosos, the Russian-born Konstantin Scherbakov. I suspect his very free tempos would be exactly as the composer would have performed them, for throughout the disc Scherbakov gives the impression of playing for his own pleasure. The series is becoming so extended I thought it had come to an untimely end, the present release largely coming from sessions in 2000. It is a lovely example of an unforced and natural piano quality and appears on the Marco Polo label.
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