Joel Schoenhals

Musical Moments: Schubert & Rachmaninov

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One of the most fascinating aspects of music is that no two performances of a song or a composition are exactly the same, and some performances are unusual and unexpected. Joel Schoenhals' reading of Schubert's six Moments Musicaux are an example of something a little more idiosyncratic than typical. Right from the opening of Moments Musicaux No. 1 Schoenhals' singular approach to timing and articulation are noticeably different to anyone familiar with these popular pieces. He freely changes timing within each phrase to give more dimension to the shape of the phrase, just as his different articulations -- frequently contrasting staccato and legato -- add more character. The notes in the famous No. 3 aren't as biting as normally heard, whereas in No. 4 they are shorter than normal. There are moments of very song-like melody, especially in the central sections of No. 2 and No. 4. Schoenhals' distinctive interpretation is more suited to the Rachmaninov Moments Musicaux, which follow the Schubert. Rachmaninov's music by nature gives the pianist more freedom of interpretation, even in the etude-like Moments Musicaux No. 2 and No. 4, and Schoenhals can apply strength to his articulation and passion to his emotion. Schoenhals has a graceful touch and makes No. 1 personal and intimate, even if some find the rubato indulgent. Its use in No. 3 makes the piece hard to follow musically; the phrases don't quite flow from one to another. However, No. 4 and No. 6 are nice and fiery, and No. 5 is pleasantly dreamy with its Chopin-esque qualities. Schoenhals' approach may not appeal to some -- especially in the Schubert -- but it does show that he has thought about the music in detail and that he has the ability to carefully control his touch in a surprisingly specific way, yet still sound natural and not inappropriately, over-the-top theatrical.

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