Quasi una Fantasia

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Quasi una Fantasia Review

by Patsy Morita

Pianists Inge Spinette and Jan Michiels create a neatly formed program on this disc combining selections from György Kurtág's growing collection Játékok (Games), Kurtág's transcriptions of Bach organ works for piano duet, and at the center, Schubert's profound Fantasia in F minor, D. 940. In a way, it resembles the concentric ripples caused by dropping a pebble in water. The program begins and ends with the same "Virág az ember" ("Flowers we are, mere flowers," from Játékok, Book 8), just a handful of notes precisely placed by the composer and sounded with equal care by the pianists. The central Schubert is surrounded by two versions of "Studie zu 'Höderlin'" (from Játékok Books 4 and 8, respectively). Kurtág's exactitude in these small works, aiming for the most expression in the most compact way, is a match for Bach's meticulous, but completely musical choral preludes. The Bach is in some ways more pleasing than the original organ versions because Spinette and Michiels are able to voice the different lines more subtly on the piano (and in a couple of cases, Kurtág added an extra, delightfully out-of-tune but sympathetic reflection of the chorale line in the highest register). Because Kurtág's musical language is such a tonal, harmonic, and often structural contrast to the Bach and Schubert, it helps to understand the titles of each Játékok selection to get a feel for his intent in each one, whether it's the reference to Hungarian folk music in "Hommage á Halmágyi Mihály" or to speech patterns in "Schläge -- Zank." That switching back and forth between the different styles of music may be off-putting to some listeners, but Spinette and Michiels have no problem changing mental gears to play Baroque, then contemporary, then Romantic, then contemporary again. Their performance, no matter what they are playing here, is thoughtfully done in all respects, making the connections between the works more comprehensible to listeners (although the reasoning behind juxtapositions isn't always apparent) while maintaining musical integrity. The sound is also excellent, with even the live recording of the Schubert fitting almost seamlessly with the rest of the recording. It's an intriguing program that should appeal to those looking for some meaningful connection between old and new music.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Játékok (Games), for piano
1 00:37 Amazon
2 01:22 Amazon
Játékok (Games), for piano
3 00:41 Amazon
4 00:44 Amazon
5 04:55 Amazon
Játékok (Games), for piano
6 01:15 Amazon
7 00:39 Amazon
Cantata No. 106, "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit," ("Actus Tragicus"), BWV 106 (BC B18)
8 02:23 Amazon
Játékok (Games), for piano
9 00:40 Amazon
10 19:16 Amazon
Játékok (Games), for piano
11 00:56 Amazon
12 04:06 Amazon
Játékok (Games), for piano
13 02:42 Amazon
14 01:06 Amazon
15 02:17 Amazon
16 01:41 Amazon
17 01:14 Amazon
18 02:54 Amazon
Játékok (Games), for piano
19 00:40 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick