Arabesque's Gabriela Imreh Plays Piano Transcriptions features the acclaimed, Transylvanian-born, New York-based virtuoso in six standard-format concert transcriptions and 12 pieces drawn from George Gershwin's Song-Book, a volume of transcribed songs that Gershwin himself compiled in 1932. Imreh regularly concertizes, both in recital and with the Philadelphia Virtuosi, led by her husband Daniel Spalding; together they have traveled all over the world and are renowned for their rendition of Franz Liszt's early concerto Malédiction. By comparison, Imreh infrequently records, at least as a solo artist; heretofore her recordings have mostly been made with the Connoisseur Society label. On Gabriela Imreh Plays Piano Transcriptions, Arabesque has captured her in fine form, and this release reveals that Imreh's interpretations of these transcriptions are unique. She emphasizes lilt and sensitivity in the Gershwin transcriptions, often performed in a broad and raggy style that can be at odds with the still essentially vocal nature of these numbers. Imreh demonstrates clarity and restraint in Liszt's own solo transcription of his concerted Totentanz, and it's nice to hear this ominous work played with something of the classicistic touch Liszt himself is said to have employed; this is the highlight of the disc. Imreh does not engage discernable force with the piano anywhere on this disc, but is consistently light-fingered, agile, and expressive, and this helps make the Rachmaninoff transcriptions sing out; these are lovely accounts of some of Rachmaninoff's least-known piano works.
Imreh is justifiably popular in the concert world, and with any luck, Arabesque's Gabriela Imreh plays Piano Transcriptions might initiate a trend whereby she doesn't absent herself from solo recording with such frequency, as has generally been the case in the past. This disc also has the benefit of including witty and personable liner notes by fellow pianist Guy Livingston, a cut above the usual dry recitation of facts known and oft repeated about the literature in the program.