In the recording field, Lithuanian pianist Mûza Rubackyté ("Ru-BAHT-skee-tay" for those who are Lithuanian-name pronunciation challenged) seems to have been absent quite some time. After making a huge splash with two discs for Marco Polo of music by compatriot Mikalojus Ciurlionis, sending piano fanciers scrambling for her impossible-to-find discs on the French label Lyrinx, she seemed to drop out of sight around 2001. Rubackyté was not being errant; she was still concertizing, mainly in South America, and serving on international piano juries as a judge. In 2007, Rubackyté recorded the Shostakovich 24 Preludes and Fugues for Brilliant Classics, and this seems to herald both a comeback and a return to prominence, at least in regard to recording. Brilliant's gesture reminds one a little of Naxos' revival of Turkish pianist Idil Biret's career, except in this case the interval in question was only six years and not twice that, as it was for Biret. In any event, it is good to have Rubackyté back again.
Therefore, this Brilliant Classics disc, C. Franck: Piano Works is the company's second salvo in reintroducing Rubackyté's splendid talents. And how is it? Very good, though not perfect. The recording, though well made, is a little quiet, and Rubackyté sounds more assured and confident in Franck's Prélude, Choral et Fugue, and Prélude, Aria et Finale than in Harold Bauer's famous transcription of the organ Prélude, Fugue et Variation. That performance is marred by a couple of minor finger slips, but moreover it doesn't radiate the kind of warmth that one has with, say, Awadagin Pratt's performance of the same piece. However, as with Pratt, one does not turn to an artist like Rubackyté with the notion that she is in competition to beat out all others in the interpretation of a given work. Moreover, like Biret and Naxos, Rubackyté is unique enough and has the kind of fan base where Brilliant should feel free to record anything she'd be willing to play. If she did the whole Ciurlionis cycle again, all the Liszt, and other pieces she did for Lyrinx, then what classical market there is should be able to support it. In the short term, C. Franck: Piano Works is, despite the minor quibbles here with the familiar Bauer transcription and the sound, a beautiful musical experience that cannot be compared with ease to other, would-be similar, recordings, and likely won't disappoint anyone inclined to acquire it at the reasonable asking price. In the long run, hopefully this will be only the second pitch in what turns out to be a double-header.