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A Grand Romance / Jeffrey Biegel

Release Date: 05/28/2013
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30017
Composer:  Moritz Moszkowski ,  Eduard Schütt ,  Adolf Henselt ,  Ignace Jan Paderewski  ...  Performer:  Jeffrey Biegel Number of Discs: 1
Recorded in: Stereo

A Grand Romance celebrates the intimacy of the relationship between pianist and public, with a sampling of finely honed pieces of the Romantic era. Penned by composers who were highly accomplished keyboardists themselves, it represents a genre of pianism unashamed of sentiment, frill and facility, and luxuriating in the expressive sophistication of the instrument and the wooing of the crowd.

The Steinway & Sons label was launched with Jeffrey Biegel's critically acclaimed release, Bach On A Steinway, in 2010; Biegel's recording of A Steinway Christmas Album was one of the top selling classical titles of 2011.

"An
Read more excellent program of 16 piano works that have become well-known encores... Each miniature work represents a genre of pianism that allows Biegel to express his unique tonal palette and sensitivity to pedaling, color and phrasing... Overall, his interpretations - which range from short and sweet piano etudes to character pieces and technical dazzlers - are impeccable and will surely have a positive impact on his listeners." – Paula Edelstein, LA Music Examiner
 
"Biegel's back with his third for the [Steinway] label, still showing just how tasty solo piano is under the right fingers, kicking it out salon style. With repertoire cover[ing] many years and styles, the professor leaves his pedagogy in the classroom to make this a fresh, full blooded, lively set that brings the commercial side of classical music to a gloriously realized front row. Very much a top shelf recording, it's fun, flavorful and a good reason for kids to want to play something as unportable as piano. Killer stuff you don't have to be a classical fan to love. Check it out." – Chris Spector, MidWest Record Entertainment

"The music is a smorgasbord of old-fashioned morceaux, composed by virtuosi of the Romantic era. The pieces are discoveries and rediscoveries, both. Our pianist is Jeffrey Biegel, winningly eager, and always competent...Biegel’s ambition, and defiance of fashion, is to be admired."-- Jay Nordlinger, New Criterion

FULL REVIEWS

In the days before piano recitals became Serious Business, Romantic virtuosos delighted audiences by serving up lighthearted encores where technical fireworks and effortless charm went hand in hand. At first the prospect of hearing 16 such pieces in a row struck me as akin to having nothing but candy for dinner, yet Jeffrey Biegel’s excellent programming instincts and canny sense of pacing manages to transform what the late Arthur Loesser called “cream of corn” into real sustenance. More importantly, he takes the texts seriously without losing sight of their entertainment value.

In the Moszkowski selections, for example, he eschews cuts in the Caprice espagnol, plays Étincelles’ understated ending as opposed to Horowitz’s rewrite (although Biegel sneaks in a few flourishes of his own!), and elegantly passes the tunes back and forth between hands in La jongleuse. He dispatches Henselt’s treacherous double notes in “Si oiseau j’étais” rapidly, effortlessly, smoothly, and with little pedal, much as Rachmaninov did in his classic recording. By contrast, Biegel treats Mischa Levitski’s Valse in A major with more languor and lyricism than in the composer’s terser reading.

The opposite is true with Paderewski’s B-flat major Nocturne, where the composer’s yielding, wistful lyricism differs from Biegel’s drier, more urgent shaping of the left-hand accompaniment. While it’s good to hear the full version of Anton Rubinstein’s Rêve angélique, I find Biegel’s interpretation a shade careful and studio-bound, lacking the floating animation of Harold Bauer’s ancient shellac recording. I also find Biegel’s minuscule rhythmic delays in the Schulz-Evler/Strauss Blue Danube’s main tune a bit studied and predictable, in contrast to his heartfelt and musically compelling rubatos in the slower sections. Among modern recordings of this celebrated transcription, I prefer Marc-André Hamelin’s more forceful, sweeping bravura.

Biegel concludes his program with a vivacious performance of Abram Chasins’ once-popular Rush Hour in Hong Kong. My little quibbles do not lessen the positive impact that keyboard lovers surely will glean from Biegel’s impressively finished, communicative, and joyful pianism, not to mention the excellent annotations and sonics.

– Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com

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A sentimentalist, according to Oscar Wilde, is a person who wishes to enjoy the luxury of a sentiment without paying the price for it. As evidenced by his superlative technique, Jeffry Biegel has paid a handsome price indeed, and seems to take well-earned enjoyment in celebrating the sentiments of these heart-on-sleeve compositions. He is an elegant player, much after the fashion of the late Earl Wild, and shapes his phrases with impeccable taste and generosity of sound. There seems to be no obstacle between his fingertips and his very rich imagination

The works themselves, an array of salon pieces and showpieces, are expertly crafted and full of sweet melodies. They sometimes allow Biegel to sport his dazzling virtuosity, as in the case of Schultz-Evler’s arrangement of The Blue Danube, but the pianist never gives himself over to the temptation of upstaging the music.

Although the titles To My Beloved, If I were a Bird, and Rêve angélique led me to expect an hour of tepid bourgeois pieties, I found myself taking great pleasure in every note. This is an exquisite recording.

Congratulations to the sound engineer, Daniel Shores, who creates a perfect salon ambience. Congratulations also to Steinway & Sons for proving once more that they make the best pianos in the world.

-- Raymond Beegle, Fanfare Magazine

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