Catherine Gordeladze: Caprice Brillant

Recording of the Month

In my review of Catherine Gordeladze’s Dance Fantasies CD back in 2017, I concluded,

Dance Fantasies is a brilliant success, offering a fabulous selection of familiar and semi-familiar music in a fresh and inspired piece of programming.”

Now Gordeladze is back with an equally clever and in my view even better executed recital album intriguingly titled Caprice Brillant. Featuring a 76-minute programme of music from Bach to Kapustin, from Mendelssohn to Moszkowski, Gordeladze once again assembles an imaginative and riveting programme of too-little performed piano gems.

Let’s take a closer look at this month’s Pianodao Choice recording…


“Caprice…

Just as her last recording brought together a diverse and often unexpected mix of piano pieces around the theme of dance, this time Gordeladze delves into the vaults of the piano repertoire in search of Capriccios, returning to the studio with a portfolio that delights and astounds in equal measure.

In his CD booklet note, Daniel Marti rather brilliantly explains:

“Capriccio, the italian word meaning caprice or whim, is probably related to the Italian for goat: capra. Goats are spirited, twitchy animals with a mind of their own, unlike sheep. In music a capriccio is a free-form work with a playful, jocose character and unexpected twists and turns. “

photography: Mischa Blank

Here’s the track listing:

  1. J.S. Bach – Capriccio, on the Departure of a Beloved Brother, BWV 992
    1. Arioso, Adagio: “Friends gather and try to dissuade him from departing”.
  2. 2. Andante: “They picture the dangers which may befall him”.
  3. 3. Adagissimo: “The friends’ lament”.
  4. 4. “Since he cannot be dissuaded they say farewell”.
  5. 5. Allegro poco: “Aria of the postilion”
  6. 6. “Fuga all’imitatione della posta”
  7. GodowskyCapriccio (Le Caquet) after Jean-François Dandrieu
  8. KapustinCapriccio Op. 71
  9. ClementiCapriccio No.1, Op. 17
  10. BeethovenRondo Alla Ingharese quasi un Capriccio, “Rage over a lost penny” Op. 129
  11. MendelssohnTrois Fantaisies ou Caprices op. 16
    No. 1. Andante con moto
  12. No. 2. Scherzo: Presto
  13. No. 3. Andante
  14. MoszkowskiCaprice Espagnol Op. 37
  15. JaëllCaprice Brillant Op. 63 on “La Traviata”
  16. LisztReminiscences de “Lucia di Lammermoor”
  17. LisztHungarian Rhapsody No.8, “Capriccio”

It is immediate striking that the story of the solo keyboard Capriccio has a long and distinguished history.

But it is certainly surprising how little-known and rarely performed Bach’s Capriccio, on the Departure of a Beloved Brother is these days. An early work dating from 1704, it is Bach’s only programmatic keyboard work, thought to have been composed when his brother Johann Jacob Bach left home to join the Swedish army as an oboist (lethal, right?).

It is a piece which demonstrates its composer’s superb facility for melody and lyricism, while also showcasing his surely unsurpassed gift for contrapuntal writing. I am sure that any Bach-lover not familiar with the piece will be delighted to discover it!

From the classical era, Gordeladze brings us Clementi’s lovely Capriccio No.1, Op.17, a work which encapsulates its composer’s knack of surprising the listener by mixing delightful melodies with imaginative twists and quasi-improvisational flair.

Here though, it risks being swept away by the ebullient charge of Beethoven’s fabulous “Rage over a lost penny, such a brilliant and memorable piece (again, rather underplayed these days). Since the CD’s arrival, the unstoppable melody has become a constant ear-worm.

The Romantic era is well-represented, the Mendelssohn pieces being a particular highlight. And the Liszt showpieces which conclude the recital are dazzling, their juxtaposition with the obscure Jaëll Caprice Brillant (fittingly the disc’s title track) shining a light on an interesting and once more widely-popular sub-genre within the concert repertoire.

A stark contrast midway through the disc, the opening dissonances of Kapustin’s Op.71 usher us into the 21st century, giving a tantalising glimpse of the bridge between the classical Capriccio and the free improvisation of modern jazz. This is fabulous music, providing a colourful canvas upon which Gordeladze can paint her pianistic virtuosity.

…Brillant”

I was very impressed with Gordeladze’s playing on her previous recording, but here she reaches even greater heights of excellence, her brilliant control of tone, texture and structural overview consistent throughout these many and varied compositions.

There is a supple, insouciant grace to her Bach playing, but where required she is able to draw upon a more muscular approach for the knotty contrapuntal passages. She effortlessly conjures an extraordinarily effective narrative from the work.

In the Romantic works, Gordeladze’s nimble finger work, finely-tuned sense of voicing, and gorgeous cantabile singing tone combine to give the pieces an unexpected intimacy and, above all, a surprising sense of great fun. “Jocose” indeed!

Gordeladze appears to have no difficulty mustering the jagged edges demanded by Kapustin, while her sumptuous musicality and feisty fire find their perfect foil in the scores of Clementi and Beethoven.

The recording was made at Hessischer Rundfunk, Frankfurt in December 2019. Gordeladze plays a Steinway D prepared by Andreas Seibert, and the disc is produced by Astrid Gubin. There is a commendably clean but resonant sound throughout.

Conclusion

Catherine Gordeladze may not (at least yet) have attained the global standing of, say, Martha Argerich or Yuja Wang, but her recordings are steadily establishing themselves as highlights of my CD collection.

There’s something quite magical about her inquisitive programming, shining a light into corners of the repertoire that deserve the brightest illumination. That she is able to imbue these works with a pianism that is as charming as it is virtuosic results in an alchemy that is very special indeed.

I can’t wait to see where she goes next…


Recent Recordings of the Month


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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a pianist, writer and teacher based in Milton Keynes UK, where he runs Keyquest Music - his successful independent music education business, private teaching practice and creative outlet.

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