"Hyper-pianist" extraordinaire Carlo Grante is taking on some of the blackest piano music in history in his Godowsky Edition for Music & Arts, of which Romantic Transcriptions and Arrangements is the fifth volume. He began an earlier Godowsky edition for Altarus in the early '90s that only got as far as the Godowsky's 53 Studies on the Etudes of Chopin, whereas this Music & Arts series is already further along. It also is a marked improvement on the earlier effort, not only due to a more spacious and natural recorded sound but in the depth of interpretation that the slightly older and more mature Grante is able to accord to it. Chopin does figure prominently in this program, as well, although one only need listen to Godowsky's Concert Paraphrase on Chopin's Waltz in E flat major, Op. 18, to realize what makes Godowsky's work different from the "real thing." The piece is literally turned inside out and is made heavy with substitutions from minor keys that render it into a surreal and dreamlike re-conception of Chopin's Waltz. Godowsky was certainly not a facilitator; if anything, he delighted in making his transcriptions harder than the originals, adding impressionistic chords, harmonic voices, and even scraps of melody from other music in a virtuosic collage. The technique of transformation is something more readily associated with post-modernism, but the result is usually post-romantic in sound and texturally much thicker than the already thick originals.
Grante plays Godowsky's music with an absolute sense of authority and gives no evidence of struggling against the music, which in itself is amazing. With Grante, one does not say "what an incredible piano player" so much as "what incredibly beautiful piano music," as though the music is generating itself spontaneously. Although Grante has recorded nearly 20 albums in his roughly 15 years before the microphone, this seems like his best yet -- it is both outstanding and highly recommended.