ME On Wings of Song

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Piano: Konstantin Scherbakov
Cat. #: TP1039107 | Single CD
Label: TwoPianists Records
Recorded at: Endler Hall, Stellenbosch University, South Africa. February 15-17, 2011
Diapason 5 Stars

ABOUT

A critical flick through the pages of Gramophone magazine reveals the demands of the classical music marketplace: a strange interaction between consumers and suppliers, a difficult economic marriage where sometimes it is hard to see whether it is the audience dictating programs, or the industry giving the consumer very little choice. Caught in the middle are often the performers, their talents subjected to the demands of the market and the record companies. Bothering to ask the performer is what this album, simply titled ME, is all about.
Scherbakov’s tone and phrasing are seductive, the control of line impressive.
BBC Music Magazine, Tim Parry
Konstantin Scherbakov’s constantly growing discography comprises 34 CDs featuring around 300 works. Many recordings received prizes and awards, including the Preis der Deitschen Schallplattenkritik and the Cannes Classical Award. With some of the most unique projects captured on disc - including the complete piano works by Leopold Godowsky, Respighi and Schostakovich, and complete piano concertos by Tchaikovsky, Respighi, Medtner and Scriabin - what more is there that this performer will want to record?
ME is a program not held together by historical circumstance or some sort of common theme. Instead the works are held together by the performer’s commitment: a commitment to the love of music for music’s sake. This personal selection by Konstantin Scherbakov, featuring such beautiful melodies as the Bach/Siloti Prelude in E minor, Lyadov Prelude Op.11, no.1, and the Mozart/Thalberg Lacrimosa from the Requiem, flies in the face of the domineering commercialization of musical performance.
What we have here is not a case of the performer saying ‘Who Cares if You listen?’. It is rather a case of ‘Would you Care to Listen to Me?’, and there is a great reward for any listener that accepts Konstantin Scherbakov’s invitation.

TRACK LIST

01 - Johann Sebastian Bach: Prelude in E minor, BWV 855a (arr. A. Siloti)
02 - Christoph Willibald von Gluck: Dance of the Blessed Spirits from the opera Orfeo ed Euridice (arr. I. Friedman)
03 - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Lacrimosa from the Requiem, K. 626 (arr. S. Thalberg)
04 - Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy: Lied ohne Worte Op. 19 no. 1 in E Major
05 - Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy: “Auf Flugeln des Gesanges” Op. 34 no. 2 (arr. F. Liszt)
06 - Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy: Lied ohne Worte Op. 102 no. 4 in G Minor
07 - Johannes Brahms: Intermezzo No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 117
08 - Johann Sebastian Bach: Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639 from Orgelbuchlein (arr. F. Busoni)
09 - Franz Liszt: Consolation S172 no. 3
10 - Franz Liszt: Nocturne S541 no. 3 “Liebestraum”
11 - Sergey Rachmaninoff: Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14 (arr. Z. Kocsis)
12 - Frederic Chopin: Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp minor, Op. posth.
13 - Claude Debussy: “Clair de Lune” from Suite Bergamasque
14 - Anatoly Lyadov: Prelude, Op. 11 No. 1
15 - Camille Saint-Saens: “Le cygne” from Carnival of the Animals (arr. A. Siloti)
16 - Mikhail Glinka: Nocturne in F minor, ‘La Séparation’
17 - Frederic Chopin: Nocturne No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 9, No. 2
18 - Franz Schubert: Impromptu in G-flat major, Op. 90 No. 3 (D. 899)

REVIEWS

Chopin Magazine” - Tokyo
January 2012
Satoru Takaku

Konstantin Scherbakov, who has now become one of the best pianists with highest caliber in his generation as well as has quickly got known worldwide as “the first prize winner’s professor”, released “ME On the Wings of Songs” from TwoPianists Records, a newly-launched independent CD label in South Africa.
ME is essentially an album of the pianist’s favorite encore pieces, and the selection of music is very tasteful and the order is so perfectly and musically considered as if listeners attended a pleasant and fascinating recital of his.
Each performance in ME shows Scherbakov’s extraordinarily sophisticated microcosm of pianism which is going up to the same standard as that of the greatest Russian master pianists in the past such as Richter and Gilels. A “must” CD for all music lovers, piano students and teachers.

BBC Music Magazine
Christmas Edition 2011
Tim Parry

Renowned for his prodigious technique, Konstantin Scherbakov here revels in music of lyrical expression. He takes us on a lovingly-felt journey through songs without words. Aided by crystalline sound combining treble-focused warmth with a reverberant ambience that gives his singing lines superb sustaining power. As well as two of Mendelssohn’s miniatures, we hear popular works by Chopin, Liszt, Schubert, Brahms and Debussy. But such familiar poetry is offset by an Anatoly Lyadov Prelude, a Nocturne by Glinka, and some less obvious transcriptions. It’s good to hear Thalberg’s arrangement of the Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem, beautifully voiced by Scherbakov, and Zoltán Kocsis’ version of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise. Two Alexander Siloti arrangements are also included: Bach’s E minor Prelude, and a less luxuriant Saint-Saëns’ Swan than Godowsky’s.
Scherbakov’s tone and phrasing are seductive, the control of line impressive. If on extended listening you find yourself craving more variety of texture and timbre, this is mostly a reflection of the pieces selected rather than shortcomings inherent in his playing. Occasionally I wanted a more lively left-hand involvement, or a slightly more teasing glint in the eye. But overall this is an enchanting disc.

Diapason from October 2011
Review by Bertrand Boissard
5/5 Technique

Le nom de Konstantin Scherbakov, sort de Marc-André Hamelin des steppes, venait l’esprit quand on voulait évoquer un pianiste à la technique colossale, ne faisant qu’une bouchée des œuvres les plus chargées, en périphérie du grand répertoire – délires superpianistiques de Godowsky et autres symphonies de Beethoven revues par Liszt. Et voilà qu’il nous enchante dans un florilège de pages rêveuses, délicates et lyriques.
Le programme va à l’encontre des idées établies: n’a-t-on pas appris à alterner pièces lentes et rapides, contemplation et action? Rien de tel ici, défi périlleux. Imagine-t-on tel tâcheron du piano – on ne donnera pas de nom par charité – dans ces « adagios favoris » ? Catastrophe assurée. Même les plus excellents pianistes risqueraient de ne pas s’en relever. Scherbakov, lui, envoûte par une manière de timbrer assez renversante, un toucher très pur. Cet assemblage de pages connues, de véritables « tubes » et d’autres plus secrètes, se révèle une bonne idée. Les transcriptions tiennent leur rang et e pianiste russe pousse le luxe jusqu’à choisir des variantes: l’Orphée de Gluck dans la version Friedman plutôt que Sgambati, le Lacrimosa du Requiem de Mozart dans celle de Thalberg et non de Liszt… On ne peut tout citer mais la noblesse du prélude de Bach/Siloti, la somptueuse déclamations du Gluck, un Ich ruf zu dir de Bach intense, deux Nocturnes de Chopin nageant en plein bel canto, un Clair de Lune de Debussy étoilé : quelques-uns des grands moments aptes à faire oublier de rares faiblesses, comme un intermezzo de Brahms assez peu incarné. Il faut un maître pour soutenir à ce point l’attention sans le moindre sentiment d’uniformité, et Scherbkov en est un. Un disque hors normes et un très beau moment pour tout amoureux du piano.

Ariama.com September 19, 2011 by Craig Zeichner
Pianist Konstantin Scherbakov really deserves wider recognition. His complete Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues is one of the best on record and his recordings of Liszt’s transcriptions of Beethoven symphonies are revelations. Transcriptions by six composer-pianists: Alexander Siloti, Ferruccio Busoni, Sigismond Thalberg, Ignaz Friedman, Franz Liszt and Zoltan Kocsis are showcased on this new album.
Scherbakov selected all the works on the album and the liner notes gush about it like it was first time in the history of recorded music that it’s happened. Skim through the first few paragraphs of the notes and have a listen to what Scherbakov has chosen because he has put together an interesting program. The pianist clearly has an adventurous mind and he’s made some excellent choices. In addition to the transcriptions there is standard repertoire by Mendelssohn, Brahms, Chopin, Debussy and others. There are also some wildcards, like the Nocturne in E flat major by Glinka and Prelude by Lyadov.
Scherbakov’s beautifully shaped performance of the Friedman transcription of Gluck’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits (one of the best transcriptions on the album) has a Chopin-like melancholy that's wistfully sighs thanks to Scherbakov’s sensitive touch. There’s power in Scherbakov’s playing too. He propels the Thalberg transcription of the Lacrimosa from the Mozart Requiem with an inexorable pulse that’s plenty dramatic and just a bit chilling. Yes, slow tempos and dark colors dominate Scherbakov’s repertoire choices, and occasionally you do long for something bright and up-tempo. But ultimately that’s okay, because there’s so much excellent playing here. There’s a lovely performance of Siloti’s transcription of Saint-Saëns’s “Le cygne,” a full-out romantic reading of Liszt’s “Liebestraum,” and a deeply felt performance of Schubert’s Impromptu in G-flat major. Is there such a thing as a thinking man’s piano recital? We have one here. This is strongly recommended.