Simon Mulligan

The Piano Music of Alexis Weissenberg

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Even though legendary pianist Alexis Weissenberg's compositions explode with musical styles -- from lushly chromatic post-Romanticism to chromatically lush 1950s jazz, and many things in between -- his ability to shape seemingly divergent elements smoothly and seamlessly prevents his music from sounding either like clumsy parody or magpie eclecticism. Perhaps Weissenberg is too clever by half in his blending of four popular styles (tango, Charleston, blues, and samba) with atonal harmonies in a four-movement classical form in the Sonate en état de jazz (1982); or he is possibly too show-offish in his Scriabin-esque etude Le regret (1962), which requires triple and quadruple staves to contain all its vaporous notes; and his melodies are undeniably too charming and entertaining in 4 Improvisations on songs from "La fugue" -- but that's what one should expect from this extraordinary artist. What's regrettable, though, is that this disc from Nimbus is such a late revelation of Weissenberg's genius in composition, so late in fact that he is not the performer on the album, but merely the supervisor of Simon Mulligan's exceptional playing. However adept and sympathetic this pianist is, one still wishes that the pieces had been available in Weissenberg's own renditions, and that they might have been heard years earlier, in addition to his historic recordings of the Romantic repertoire. But what's important is that these delightful gems are available here, at last, and perhaps more will surface someday; it's hard to believe that a talent as great as his could have yielded so few polished compositions. Alas, until more of Weissenberg's oeuvre is made available, this ingratiating album will have to suffice. Nimbus' reproduction is exceptional in its details and tone quality, especially in the translucent Le regret.

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