The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Gra­ham Strahle

Le Prophete: Works for Four Hands Stephanie McCallum, Erin Hel­yard trptk There is some­thing ab­sorbingly the­atri­cal when two pi­anists play to­gether at the same key­board. Watch­ing four hands con­tin­u­ally reach­ing over and un­der each other is en­ter­tain­ing enough, but be­cause the reper­toire for this com­bi­na­tion con­sists of vast num­bers of ar­range­ments of symphonies and operas pub­lished dur­ing the 19th cen­tury, it con­jures im­ages of the stage. These ar­range­ments gave am­a­teur pi­anists of the day the abil­ity to recre­ate grand pub­lic works in a smaller scale at home.

An il­lu­mi­nat­ing glimpse into this do­mes­tic realm of 19th-cen­tury cul­ture comes in a pro­gram of Gi­a­como Meyer­beer, CharlesValentin Alkan and Ig­naz Moscheles from Aus­tralian pi­anists Stephanie McCallum and Erin Hel­yard. It’s not great mu­sic: much re­lies on melo­dra­matic ef­fect, and the in­flu­ence of Liszt in his more bom­bas­tic throes is all too ap­par­ent. Nev­er­the­less, it elic­its some mar­vel­lously spon­ta­neous and en­joy­able mu­sic-mak­ing from this pair of artists. The al­bum gains its name from Meyer­beer’s Le Prophete, a bio-opera about 16th-cen­tury An­abap­tist leader John of Lei­den. Its over­ture is rid­dled with ro­man­tic-era cliches and wears a bit thin with its bom­bas­tic pas­sage-work and over­worked hero theme.

Far su­pe­rior are Alkan’s Neuf Pre­ludes: al­though these oc­ca­sion­ally also re­sort to well­worn pi­anist rhetoric of the day, their darker moods and no­ble sen­ti­ment are mem­o­rable. To end, Moscheles’s un­pre­ten­tious Hom­mage a We­ber makes a high-spir­ited par­lour party piece that ex­ploits the po­ten­tial of 10 fin­gers to fullest ad­van­tage.

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