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CD Review

Lorin Holländer Plays

Lorin Holländer, piano
ReDiscovery RD109 ADD 66:34

After his child prodigy days were over, Lorin Holländer really never got the attention he deserved. There were a few LPs for RCA Victor (including a fine Khachaturian concerto, which I would not mind seeing reissued, and Prokofieff's Fifth Piano Concerto), and his (in)famous live LP from Fillmore East, recorded in 1969, but not released by Angel until 1971. Much more recently, there was a CD for the Delos label of the Copland Piano Concerto, with Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. A look at Mr. Holländer's website tells us little about his recent musical activities. Some of its terminology ("Holländer is offering 50th anniversary concerts"… "We invite you to program, in years 2005 and 2006, a 50th anniversary celebration performance") suggests a pianist in need of concert dates. Nevertheless, Holländer has not been idle. A quick perusal of the internet reveals that he has created a career for himself as an inspirational and motivational lecturer, heavy on the New Age seasonings. (One of his suggested lecture topics is "Music, Sunflowers, the Cosmos, and Me.")

Holländer was 13 when he made his first LP, a budget-priced Camden disc of piano favorites. He was an old man of 22 when he made the RCA Victor LP (LSC-2912) from which the Beethoven, Brahms, and Schumann works are taken. Fora young man, these are surprisingly dispassionate readings. One feels that he is playing the Schumann Arabeske for himself, late at night, with no microphones or recording engineers close by. Ultimately, it's a satisfying reading, but it doesn't push the customary buttons. Much the same could be said about the Brahms, which Holländer elects to play with a minimum of masculine gruffness, and the Beethoven, which is almost matter-of-fact. The original LP did not last long in RCA's catalog (I remember buying a cut-out copy of it around 1975). If it had been released last week, I suspect it would have received even less attention, because there's little popular demand for self-effacing virtuosi. (Gotta have that flash if you want good ticket and CD sales.)

The Fillmore East album is "(in) famous" not just because it presents Holländer as some kind of unlikely rock star, but also because he uses the Baldwin Electronic Concert Grand, an amplified piano in which the sounding board is replaced by transducers. This had the potential to be hellish, but luckily, Holländer took the instrument's idiosyncrasies into consideration, and the results are more or less musical. The Bach Partita suits his unruffled temperament very well; it flows along with calm logic and well-proportioned beauty. Holländer even manages to make Debussy's Fireworks (from the second book of Preludes) sound modest and intimate.

The digital remastering can't pick out all the glitches, but you'd have a tough time convincing most listeners that these recordings are more than 35 years old. My only complaint – a minor one – is that the RCA LP contained items that did not find their way onto this CD. (I believe one of them was the Myra Hess arrangement of Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.) There was room on the CD to include it. Perhaps there were copyright issues.

As with other ReDiscovery issues, this is a no-frills CD-R, although there are some annotations, including the little essay Holländer wrote for the original Angel LP. The $15 price includes shipping and handling. ReDiscovery CDs can be purchased from their website:

Copyright © 2006, Raymond Tuttle