Philip Amalong


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Storia
Philip Amalong, piano

This is one of those recitals that don't fit easily into any repertoire category, though Amalong's deepest interests, to judge by his program, are with modern-but-in-the-tradition pianism.This is confirmed also by his other (and very fine) recordings as a chamber musician - an anthology of 20th Century flute and piano duos on Eroica, and the captivating trios by Rick Sowash.

This isn't to say that the Bach and Brahms standards here aren't perfectly respectable, but it's when Amalong gets to Ginastera's splendid First Sonata that he really cuts loose. his performance is easily as dynamic as the well-known readings by Adrian Ruiz on Genesis 114 and barbara Nissman on Newport. Amalong is particularly dazzling in the brilliant fast passages, where Eroica's strong, sharply focused sound (much better than the other two recordings) adds excitement. In III, the mysterious, nocturnal adagio, Amalong surprises by playing considerably slower than anyone else I've heard, drawing out Ginastera's study in plangent sonorities to six minutes (Nissman takes 4:27). The trick is to hold the piece together at this extra-slow pace, and Amalong manages to do this - but just. Pyrotechnics in the fast movements notwithstanding, this is actually his most daring and dangerous interpretive gamble.

"Romeo Bids Farewell to Juliet" is from Prokofieff's own transcription of ten numbers from the ballet Romeo and Juliet. This 8-minute andante is almost a conspectus of Prokofieff's inimitable artistry, with its strange mix of angularity, quirkiness, and heartfelt lyricism often conveyed - as in the long, slow coda here - by pitting a steady, march-like staccato accompaniment against soaring, long-lined melodies of unforgettable beauty and tenderness. It has lots of character and nuance here - more than in the too-languid [...] reading on Chandos 8851.

Granados's picturesque and voluptuous "laments. or the Maiden and the Nightingale" from Goyescas seems Victorian, so thickly upholstered, brocaded, and tasseled is it by comparison to Prokofieff. So does Angelo Della Picca's 8-minute Rondo Capriccioso on a theme from Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, here in its first recording. Amalong handles all of this richly cascading music with aplomb. Sonics are not as good in the Della Picca (the recital was recorded in two volumes).

A note on the insert explains that putting the CD into your computer's CD-ROM will make available "extended program notes and links." I tried that, and with a certain amount of fiddling I got the computer to bring up some slightly longer annotations. But what I like much better is the cover - an adorable variant of the typical "pianist's hands" photograph so illuminated with love and hope it makes me happy every time I look at it.

- Lehman, American Record Guide, January 2004


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