When Hyperion embarked on the project of recording all the solo piano music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, one was led to believe that around five or six CD's would suffice. Thankfully, the surviving output proved to be much larger than was at first thought, and now, with this Volume 8, we are almost there.
There is not much left though and this is the penultimate disc of what will eventually be a 9 CD series. This album is made up of 11 pieces that vary from 'polkas' to 'grand caprices' to 'etudes' and 'fantasies'. Lack of time precludes one from analyzing each piece, but as in previous volumes, this collection has a certain hypnotic charm that arrests the listener's attention from beginning to end. Be prepared for some miniature gems, full of sparkling tunes, some pensive and reflective, others dashing and bouncy; scales, octaves, arpeggios and chords all masterfully weaved together to form a glittering tapestry of magical sonorities.
Philip Martin's affinity with this repertoire is unquestionable. Ever since the first volume, his playing has been consistently brilliant and technically assured. His wonderful pianism is never less than impressive, and he unfailingly manages to match all of Gottschalk's virtuosic demands. This is music that will make you smile and there is enough humour to even drive away the worst of those despondent moves which we very often find ourselves in.
Jeremy Nicholas' annotations are indispensable if one wants to know more about those haunting but curious compositions so read before you listen. Sumptuous recorded sound completes this 8th instalment in a once in a lifetime series.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech