Phoenix Edition is a German label that opened its doors in May 2008; its founder was the former driving force behind the Capriccio label, a major player in the dissemination of worthy, under-recognized literature that sank along with the bankruptcy of Delta Music GMBh the previous year. Out of the box, Phoenix Edition is declaring its commitment to Ernst Krenek through labeling this and one other release as belonging to an Ernst Krenek Edition; this is a project carried over to some extent from Capriccio. Russian pianist Mikhail Korzhev is featured in Krenek's second and fourth piano sonatas; the Five Piano Pieces, Op. 39; the suite Echoes of Austria; George Washington's Variations; and the "Foxtrott" from the Little Suite, Op. 13. Korzhev introduces no new works to the recorded catalog here, but it would be very difficult to obtain all of the various recordings they have been collected on; it is convenient to have them all under one roof as here. This is a good selection of Krenek's piano music, emphasizing his dry wit, love of crisp rhythmic ideas, and direct, uncluttered textures. However, a certain amount of sentimentality was not completely outside of Krenek's bag of tricks; in Echoes from Austria (1958), Krenek returns with a nostalgic backwards glance to his homeland and delivers something that is as delicate as a puff pastry, yet with a bittersweet overtone. George Washington's Variations (1950) is more whimsical; Krenek introduces a Charleston rhythm in the midst of his restatement of a minuet from George Washington's era.
The piano sound is a little dry and Korzhev's delivery a little cool and uncommitted, but this isn't a disservice to the music, given its basic character: Apollonian, detached, purposeful, borderline neo-classical, and decidedly anti-romantic in tone and intent.