Karen Haid

The Music of Walter Gieseking

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Nimbus' The Music of Walter Gieseking is highly unusual in that it is a chamber music album on which all of the instruments are played by one person: Karen Haid. Haid performs on flute and on piano, and in piano duet pieces she plays both parts. The playing itself throughout is excellent, and her dedication to the cause of Gieseking as a composer is admirable. However, not all musicians who are great interpreters make for good composers, and Gieseking's music is surprisingly challenged in such respect. Written mostly in the 1920s and '30s and possessed to some degree of technical flourish, Gieseking's music shows an inexact grasp of impressionist style and is rhythmically earthbound. Among the more interesting selections, the Spiel um ein Kinderlied is a set of variations on "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" that shows imagination in its choice of pianistic textures, though over time his seeming inability to vary the basic tune in an interesting way causes the variation set to wear out its welcome. Of the Drei Tanz-Improvisationen, Gieseking does manage to think out of the box and the opening "Tempo di Foxtrot" is a real charmer, close to the idiom of Erwin Schulhoff. But the closing "Tempo di Charleston" is let down by Gieseking's rigid approach to rhythm and his disinterest in varying accompaniment figures. The overall impression is that composer Gieseking was an amateur whose creations were informed by his tremendous ability as an interpreter, but whose grasp of composition were in no way in keeping with it. Devotees of Gieseking will doubtless find this of interest and be grateful for the light that it sheds on his musical mind; most others will never need to hear this, which is a pity as Haid has put a lot of work into it, and that aspect of it definitely shows.

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