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BILL NEWMAN listens to
American pianist Rorianne Schrade


When Rorianne Schrade, star pupil of Nadia Reisenberg and Josef Raieff, winner of countless prizes, graces the platform of London's Wigmore Hall, audiences are in for an outstanding evening's entertainment. I use this expression in the widest sense. Her first appearance on stage was followed by an opening speech welcoming her audience to the concert, expressing her thanks for their warm reception. Seated near the front, I prayed that the Wigmore Hall management would furnish their artists with a microphone. So much detail is missed, and other concert hall establishments have already corrected this problem. I gathered this [Friday 30 September 2011] was her first appearance in the UK, although her father performed in London years back.

Rorianne Schrade. Photo © Christian Steiner
Rorianne Schrade. Photo © Christian Steiner. Click on the image for higher resolution

She began with Liszt's transcription of J S Bach's Prelude and Fugue in A minor, which could, so easily be compared with an arrangement by Busoni, such are the organic properties of this noble music. It was tremendous! The musical line gave indications of classical-romantic nobility, such is the masterly handling of Liszt's full-range stature as the world's greatest pianist-transcriber. I sat there glued to the Steinway Grand and the lady's powerful rendition. From head to toe, she has the physique of a Titan -- with apologies to Theodore Dreiser! Such poetry and élan!

It was followed by William Sterndale Bennett's Capriccio Op 11 No 2 from Etudes in the Form of Capriccios -- a delightful surprise to me, as I mainly associated the composer's solo piano music on CD with Malcolm Binns, who I wish had been in attendance. What a delightful sense of touch the pianist possesses. This requirement is typical of Juilliard trained pianists, who are encouraged to explore unusual repertoire. Schumann's Etudes Symphoniques has been played by many artists I have listened to over the last year. So special, here, were the gradations of tone, and those wonderful old-fashioned rubatos. It reminded me of Claudio Arrau, at the height of his performing powers. Without concerning herself with the posthumous variations, which, strictly speaking, do not belong, each section dovetailed with the next, to give that feeling of cogency, as the composer (and Clara) wished. The Sterndale Bennett and the Schumann were dovetailed, Rorianne informed her audience from the keyboard, and I conjured up a setting for an informal Friday evening's entertainment with drinks available on order! There were a few 'glitches' en route, due to the excitement of the occasion.

Ravel's Valses Nobles et Sentimentales came after the interval. Some dustings of the keys and moppings of the brow, and Rorianne was on her way. She described it in the programme as one of the most beautiful works in her repertory -- it was a peach of a performance. Following on directly came Liszt's Soirée de Vienne No 6, after Schubert -- a favourite of Edith Farnadi. It could hardly have sounded better, exuding grace and charm, with fleeting fingerwork in every bar. Then, the Grand Finale -- the same composer's Waltz from Gounod's Faust. I have never heard it played so wonderfully, except by the late György Cziffra, at his only Royal Festival Hall London solo recital. An encore was clearly out of place, the audience already spoilt for choice. Afterwards, we all vacated the main hall for the Artist Green Room, where I was encouraged to see so many of her friends and admirers.

On arriving home, I played her two latest CDs, kindly supplied by her husband. Johann Strauss II Piano Transcriptions, Concert Arabesques and Paraphrases is on Centaur CRC 2721 (recorded 12 and 13 November 2003) and features A Schulz-Evler's Concert Arabesques on Motifs by Johann Strauss II 'On the Beautiful Blue Danube', E Schutt's Tales from the Vienna Woods Concert Paraphrase, Carl Tausig's We Live but Once: Valse-Caprice after Johann Strauss II, Erno von Dohnanyi's Du und Du Walzer, Strauss-Schrade: The Kiss Waltz, Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Tales of Strauss Op 21 and Leopold Godowsky's Kunstlerleben ('Artist's Life'). This would make a marvellous Christmas or Birthday present. The choice is as varied as anyone could wish, and the playing is full of exuberance!

Johann Strauss II Piano Transcriptions. Rorianne Schrade, piano. © 2005 Centaur Records (CRC 2721)
Johann Strauss II Piano Transcriptions. Rorianne Schrade, piano. © 2005 Centaur Records (CRC 2721). Click on the image for higher resolution

The other CD, for serious music lovers especially, is Homage to Chopin: A piano recital of works composed and inspired by Frederic Chopin on Impromptu Classics (who promoted this live recital) IC-080601 (recorded 12 and 19 September 2007). Chopin: 24 Preludes, Op 28, Nicolas Flagello: Etude, Homage to Chopin and Rachmaninov: Variations on a Theme of Chopin, Op 22. The compactness, poetry and brilliance of Chopin's mid-period work places this performance high on the list of recommended versions, while Nicholas Flagello's approx 3 minute Etude is a lovely pastiche. Rachmaninov's Chopin Variations are rarely performed, so this recorded performance is especially welcome. It is based on No 20 of the Preludes Op 28 -- a Funeral March in variation writing, lasting some 25 and a half minutes.

Homage to Chopin. Rorianne Schrade, pianist. © 2008 Impromptu Classics (IC-080601)
Homage to Chopin. Rorianne Schrade, pianist. © 2008 Impromptu Classics (IC-080601). Click on the image for higher resolution

The production and recorded sound for both these commercial recordings, by Patrych Sound Studios of New York City, is excellent.

Copyright © 5 October 2011 Bill Newman,
Edgware UK













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