Classical Music CD Godowsky-Java Suite

GODOWSKY Java Suite. TANSMAN Novelettes: Exotique—danse javanaise. Le Tour de monde en miniature: La Flûte de bambou dans la forêt de Bandoeng; La Gamelang de Bali · Esther Budiardjo (pn) · PROPIANO PPR224529 (60:38)

On an extended tour of the orient, Godowsky came to Java in early 1923 and stayed for several weeks, playing concerts nearly every day and absorbing the ubiquitous sounds of the gamelan—the Indonesian percussion orchestra—as Colin McPhee was to do just over a decade later on Bali. On his return to the United States, the dozen “phonoramas” of the Java Suite were written out over the winter of 1924 and spring of the following year. None but the most accomplished virtuosos can look at them without being at once fascinated and appalled, for, while their gamelan-informed, teasingly syncopated textures sprawl busily over the entire keyboard, pounding pentatonic evocations of Javanese melody, often polyphonically elaborated, must emerge from the relentless figuration with plangent clarity. On the other hand, the three brief Tansman pieces (playing together less than nine minutes) seem to be fairly straight transcriptions that, while interesting, are a less encompassing response to Indonesian music than Godowsky’s, if more musicologically respectful, and far less pianistically resourceful. Adventurous pianists occasionally perform the Java Suite’s meltingly seductive (and relatively easy) “Gardens of Buitenzorg,” beginning with a ravishing private recording by Godowsky himself (made in 1935 and showing, through furious crackle, no sign of the stroke that ended his career in 1930), though the suite has been almost wholly neglected. Godowsky’s son-in-law, the great David Saperton, recorded “Gamelan,” “Chattering Monkeys at the Sacred Lake of Wendit,” and “In the Streets of Old Batavia” in 1957 (David Saperton Plays Chopin and Godowsky, VAI /IPA 1037-2)—light, fast, sec readings rife with the elegance of a vanished era. By contrast, Esther Budiardjo’s exquisitely modulated exuberance—if hardly lacking in élan—is plummily sensuous (on a richly resonant Kawai) in even the most furious passages, languidly sensual or liquidly opulent where called for, gorgeously colored and often scintillant, dynamically open, and, in sum, stunningly, splendidly, superbly persuasive. A native of Jakarta now working toward her doctorate at the New England Conservatory, Budiardjo presumably has the sounds Godowsky evoked, with such impossible flair, in her blood, so to speak. In any case, she has set the Java Suite magnificently before us and, while one hopes to hear these pieces many times from many pianists (foremost Marc-André Hamelin)—for their coloristic possibilities are infinite—Budiardjo’s will be a difficult act to top. Sound is whelmingly, transparently immediate. Adrian Corleonis

Tracks:  Godowsky Java Suite

Gamelan, Wayang - Purwa, Hari Besaar, Chattering Monkeys at the Sacred Lake of Wendit, Boro Budur in Moonlight, The Bromo Volcano and the Sand Sea at Daybreak, Three Dances, The Gardens of  Buitenzorg*, In the streets of Old Batavia, In the Kraton, The Ruined Water Castle at Djokja, A court pageant in Solo;  and Tansman, from Novelettes, No. 3 Exotique (Danse Javanaise,*) from "Le tour de monde en miniature," No. 9, la flute de bambou dans la forêt de Bandoeng, and  
NO. 10, Le Gamelang de Bali*

* Indicates World Premiere Recording

Total Playing Time 60'  38"


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