Tag Archives: Gershwin

Original Transcriptions for Piano



Cameron Roberts (piano)

TTP: 63’00”



Goldberg Variations (Bach)

Cameron Roberts (piano)

TTP: 68’00”



reviewed by Neville Cohn


MCD404 is one of the most satisfying recordings I’ve heard in some time. It brims with good things.


All the transcriptions on this CD are by Cameron Roberts himself. Certainly, he shapes to the demands of whatever he plays like fine wine to a goblet. His taste is impeccable, his physical command of the piano is remarkable. Refinement of style  informs every moment of this recording.


Vivaldi’s Summer from The Four Seasons is a high point of this collection with Roberts working wonders with this much loved work. Magically silvery tone in the high treble informs the second movement which is transcribed and played with such artistry as to assume an identity that is quite unique and able to stand proudly in its own right. At its most extrovert, the playing has a Lisztian grandeur.


Roberts’ version of Rachmaninov’s song How Beautiful it is Here! is given marvellously lyrical treatment, each note clothed in gorgeous cantabile tone. The same composer’s The Morn of Life, Sleep is a model of introspection.


Is there a more hackneyed work in the American canon than Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue? Here, though, Roberts demonstrates a mastery of style and an heroic physical command of the instrument which, at climaxes, generates massive waves of noble sound. Bravo!


The Largo ma no tanto from Bach’s Concerto for two violins is another gem which leaves little doubt that Roberts is a born Bach interpreter; this offering cannot be faulted.


Tchaikowsky’s 1812 overture runs for more than a quarter hour – and every moment of it makes for thrilling listening.


This compilation is a stunningly fine example of the transcriber’s art.


ROBERTS  is in Olympian form in Bach’s Goldberg Variations which comes across as a chaplet of near-faultlessly fashioned pianistic gems. Variation 8, for instance, has a delightfully spiky, buoyant quality, Variation 10 is memorable for its emphatic rhythms – and there’s a wondrous clarity and control in Variation 11. Variation 12 is in the best sense danceable – and the bold, abruptly peremptory quality of Variation 16 could hardly have been bettered. A dainty, graceful account of Variation 17 makes for sheerly beautiful listening – and the intricate delicacy of Roberts playing in the20th variation calls finest Brussels lace to mind.


There’s no lack of virtuosity when called for: Variation 23 is given refreshingly forthright treatment – and Variation 23 is informed by fantastic agility and precision.  Variation 30, though, calls for a more paean-like quality.


A bonus takes the form of three transcriptions of Bach originals: Aus liebe from the St Matthew Passion comes across as an essay in achingly poignant terms – and the darkly bodeful despair that is the essence of Es ist Vollbracht from the St John Passion is as much an instance of the transcribers art at its highest as it is a profoundly probing interpretation.

PORTRAITS Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano)

thibauChopin, Liszt, Francaix, Gershwin, Debussy, Mendelssohn, Nyman, Ellington, Satie, Ravel

TPT: 2:28:44
DECCA 476 159-5 (2-CD)


  reviewed by Neville Cohn



In yet another fine 2-CD issue in the DECCA SBS series, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet is showcased in a compilation that lasts just under two and a half hours. Especially in the French repertoire, Thibaudet shapes to the demands of the music like Moet and Chandon to a goblet.
I savoured his account of Debussy’s Pour le Piano. In the Prelude, and unlike that famous recording of some decades ago on a Columbia LP by Walter Gieseking which is informed by a softly mellow sound, Thibaudet brings glittering tone to flawlessly stated note streams. I admired, too, his account of the Sarabande which comes across like a little marvel of dignified introspection ¬ and the lightness of touch in the Toccata is everything one could have wished for.
In Ravel’s Piano Trio, Thibaudet is joined by stellar co-musicians violinist Joshua Bell and cellist Steven Isserlis in a recording of breathtaking quality. Pantoum is magical with its delicate, quasi-pointillist sounds and feather-light buoyancy. The inherent solemnity of the Passacaille is near-perfectly evoked, the perfect foil for the finale in which gossamer-delicate, souffle-light textures at high speed astonish the ear.
Central to much of Thibaudet’s playing is a quality of elegance, wonderfully apparent in Mendelssohn’s Andante and Rondo Capriccioso, drawing on the deepest wells of expressiveness in the opening pages and demonstrating prestidigitation in the capriccio that places Thibaudet comfortably to the fore of current finger-Olympians. Thibaudet’s interpretation impressively captures the elfen nature of much of the writing; it is an interesting contrast to Julius Katchen’s famous DECCA LP recording made years ago which is tonally very much more substantial.
Thibaudet’s skill in executing rapid, silvery-toned, delicato treble traceries with the nonchalance of mastery is much in evidence in Liszt’s Rigoletto Paraphrase.

And of his account of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No 2, it is the slow movement that is most memorable, coming across in so thoughtfully lyrical a way as to sound like an extended, beautifully considered nocturne briefly interrupted by abrupt declamations midway. Thibaudet is soloist with the Rotterdam Philharmonic conducted by Valery Gergiev. And he is a flawless soloist with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal under Charles Dutoit in Francaix’s engaging Concertino – but sounds not entirely in sympathy with Liszt’s Hungarian Fantasy.
Can there be a more hackneyed Chopin nocturne than his opus 9 no 2 in E flat, regularly massacred at the hands of earnest young piano players at eisteddfodau. Listen, then, to Thibaudet’s account – and give thanks that such artistry exists to unlock the exquisite potential of this little piece.
There’s also a vignette by Duke Ellington – A single petal of a rose – its quiet, introverted beauty evoked to the nth degree.
© 2004