Dip Your Ears, No. 66 

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J. Brahms / C. Saint-Saëns Sonata for Two Pianos et al., G. & S. Pekinel
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Lizt/-LvB, Katsaris

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Lizt/-LvB, Howard

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Schoenberg/-Brahms/-Bach, Eschenbach

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4 Seasons, Alessandrini
Rediscovering familiar, great music is always a wonderful affair. It may be through a stunning performance of a war horse (just think of Alessandrini’s Four Seasons!) or, perhaps more controversially, through an orchestration or reduction of a familiar work. Liszt’s piano versions for the Beethoven Symphonies are one example (play the 8th or 7th to a friend and have them guess what they are listening to: they can hum along with it but are driven nuts because they can’t figure out why they know it; Leslie Howard’s hyperion recording is fine – but better, more evoking of the orchestral colors still is Cyprien Katsaris’ re-released recording for Teldec), another is Schoenberg’s way with Brahms’ Piano Quartet (nick-named Brahm’s Fifth Symphony – I love the RCA/Eschenbach recording and only wish RCA would re-issue it; I don’t even know of a recording of it currently in print in the U.S.).

Brahms is also involved in this re-discovery of a work. If his F minor sonata for two pianos sounds familiar, it’s probably because you know it in its later incarnation, the Piano Quintet. Brahms, who arranged most of his works for two pianos, knew the genre well and it shows in this sonata. Far from being a mere study for the later, more famous work, or a slimmed-down version of it, it stands on its own solid legs (six, I suppose) and instead of pointing toward the quintet, perhaps Brahms' quintessential chamber work, it suggests an orchestral piece underneath. The Turkish-delight piano duo, the Pekinel sisters Güher and Süher, are up for anything (Bach á la Jacques Loussier was a recent album of theirs) and they make this substantial (40 minute) work the main attraction of a disc that also includes two Hungarian Dances (5 and 17) and the Five Waltzes, op.39 as well as Saint-Saëns’ Variations on a Theme of Beethoven, op.25. All of them entertaining and delightful-novel in their own right as they are, you should want to dip your ears for the Sonata alone!

Warner Classics 2564 61050-2

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