The Sound of Verse: Boris Pasternak: Piano Sonata in b, Preludes; Maurice Ravel: Gaspard de la Nuit; Serghei Rachmaninov, Piano Sonata No.2 in bb, Op.36; Inna Faliks, piano; MSR Classics MS 1333, © 2009, 60:00, $14.95.
This collection of music focuses on the abstract relationship between poetry and music, featuring Boris Pasternak, the 20th-century Russian poet who dabbled in music, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Maurice Ravel. Each work has its direct literary equivalent: Pasternak, his own poems, Rachmaninoff, The Bells by Edgar Allen Poe, and Ravel, Gaspard de la Nuit: Fantaisies à la manière de Rembrandt et de Callot by Aloysius Bertrand. This last piece is considered one of the great masterpieces of piano music and is the work that makes this CD worthwhile.
The Pasternak pieces are decent and competent compositions, but not terribly original. I find the first prelude, Con Moto, the most interesting, as its motives and its structures are tighter and clearer. The Sonata seems to be more of a showcase for the performer. Honestly, the connection between verse and music in this example is more rhetorical than it is meaningful. I find the same suspect connection between verse and music in the Rachmaninoff example. Both of these works are rather virtuosic compositions that inevitably get entangled with their own realities and leave the written word behind. They are musically dense, especially the Rachmaninoff, and suggest nothing but a musical environment. The connection to the literary parallels is successful only insofar as is music’s natural inherent ability to represent any number of images at any given time, but I cannot admit to an inevitable link to the specific literature at hand.
Another odd choice is the version of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Sonata used for this recording, the original 1913 version. It was revised by the composer in 1931 because of its excessive and superfluous nature. Here the performer circumvented the composer’s intentions by using this older version under thinly argued pretenses. The performance is excellent nonetheless, but I do concur with the very apt word, ‘superfluous’ that composer himself used to describe certain moments of this older version.
Only in the Ravel is the literary connection significant. The poetry itself is laden with excessive imagery and is very well aligned with Ravel’s own musical style. Gaspard was carefully chosen and is deliberately involved with the music’s inherent environment. The 2nd movement, “Le Gibet,” depicts a man hanging from the gallows, which is represented by an incessant repetition of A# throughout the entire movement. The last movement, “Scarbo,” depicts a goblin scurrying over an immobile body, and is reflected in the music through surreptitious movements and quick yet precise motion.
All in all, Inna Faliks plays exquisitely. The Sound of Verse being her own personal project, she brings to each work the extent of her pianistic abilities, which is quite profound, and the integrity of her poetic inclinations as a performer. Her sound is fresh and each work is given its own personal space to breathe out and be. Again the crowning achievement of this recording is the Gaspard de la Nuit, which far outshines the other 2 compositions.
© 2009 Thomas Healy