Piano Transcriptions / Jura Margulis

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PIANO TRANSCRIPTIONS Jura Margulis (pn) OEHMS 545 (78:41)

GLUCK (trans. Sgambati) Orpheus and Euridice: Melody. BACH (trans. Busoni) Violin Partita No. 2: Chaconne. SCHUBERT (trans. Liszt) 4 Songs. CAPLET (trans. Margulis) La Masque de la mort rouge. WAGNER Tristan und Isolde: Liebestod (trans. Liszt). Götterdämmerung: Trauermarsch (trans. Margulis). SAINT-SAËNS (trans. Liszt/Margulis) Danse macabre. RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (trans. Rachmaninoff) Tsar Sultan: Flight of the Bumblebee. PROKOFIEV (trans. Anon) Love for Three Oranges: March

The present release marks this reviewer’s introduction to the work of pianist Jura Margulis—born in St. Petersburg, trained under Leon Fleisher at the Peabody Conservatory, and currently on the music faculty of the University of Arkansas. A welcome introduction it is.

As annotator Elizabeth Hellmuth points out, “Transcriptions can be relatively tightly or loosely connected to the original, running the gamut from a bar-by-bar reproduction to a free paraphrase based on the motivic material; this CD offers examples from both ends of the spectrum.” Margulis’s technical and emotional range is thoroughly up to the varied challenges presented by this varied repertoire. To take but one example, it’s a famously formidable test for a solo singer to differentiate the four characters represented in the narrative text of Schubert’s Erlkönig —much less for a solo pianist in the Liszt transcription. It’s hard to imagine this challenge being brought off more successfully than it is here.

Hellmuth’s annotations are notably informative and persuasive—particularly an introductory essay on the aesthetics of transcription ,which could actually succeed in changing the minds of one or two transcription-phobes who might chance to read it. Engineering, too, is irreproachable. The recording acoustic is close-up, more that of a parlor than of a recital hall. I could do with just a teensy bit more reverberation, but this is little more than a personal quirk; given the dense textures of much of this music, too little is vastly preferable to too much.

This release does provide a new spin on the concept of “bonus track,” closing with a rendition of the March from Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges that is nowhere mentioned in any of the accompanying annotation. But it would be a perverse listener indeed who would pass up this disc on such petty grounds as that. Recommended.

FANFARE: James Carson

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: OC 545

  • UPC: 812864016529

  • Label: Oehms Classics

  • Composer: André Caplet, Franz Liszt, Giovanni Sgambati, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Richard Wagner

  • Performer: Jura Margulis