Jeffrey Biegel's 'Grand Romance' has Old-School Charms

Free Download: Biegel plays Moszkowski's 'Etincelles'

Sunday, May 26, 2013

To some, they are Romantic trifles of the sort our grandparents loved: short, salon pieces by Paderewski, Moszkowski, Schütt, Anton Rubinstein and other great virtuosos of the past. But for one concert pianist, they will always be cutting edge.

Jeffrey Biegel, a New York pianist whose eclectic, contrarian sensibility we've highlighted before, has recorded 16 pieces that today are most often played as encores, when the “serious business” of the main recital is over. But this status alone does the music a disservice. Many of these pieces have the honest charms of a bygone era, a time when music had to fit easily onto one side of a 78 rpm disc.

Chief among the salonists was the 19th century virtuoso Moritz Moszkowski, who wrote a large amount of short piano pieces that have come in and out of favor over time. Biegel’s performances of the Caprice espagnol, La Jongleuse and Etincelles ("Sparks"), have a good deal to recommend. There is humor in the writing, the melodies are well crafted and the passagework is in a neo-Liszt-Schumann style.

Other featured composers include Anton Rubinstein, whose Rêve angélique is played with admirable restraint; Ignace Paderewski, whose Nocturne in B-flat has a singing tone and a gracious sentiment; and two languid selections by Eduard Schütt, the Canzonetta in D major and A la bien-aimée. Biegel brings some liberties to the latter waltz tune but never distorts the line.

The album concludes with once-popular Rush Hour in Hong Kong by former WQXR Music Director Abram Chasins. While none of this music pretends to much, it is still capable of exerting an honest, curious sort of appeal, and is likely to be a new experience to many listeners.

"Grand Romance"
Jeffrey Biegel, piano
Steinway & Songs
Available at Arkivmusic.com

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Comments [3]

Gary Eskow

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!

Jun. 01 2013 05:16 PM
Ivan W. Hametz

Biegel is a genius. His touch is superb, his dynamics truly Romantic and his taste exceptional. This is a recording everyone who likes piano music, of whatever era, should have and listen to until it wears out. Then go out and buy another copy.

May. 31 2013 02:25 PM
Jeffrey Biegel from NY

I am deeply honored that WQXR is once again featuring a new recording of mine as Album of the Week. This recording is somewhat of a milestone, reflecting 30+ years of study, finding out-of-print scores prior to the internet, and recognizing the repertoire played by legendary pianists of yester-year--and, recorded on piano rolls. I hope everyone listening to WQXR will enjoy the tracks, and will continue to support this truly wonderful radio station.

May. 27 2013 11:48 AM

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The Albums of the Week are compelling new recordings that we spotlight every week. These include creative repertoire choices, engaging musical personalities and artistic statements that stand out from the pack. You can hear the Albums of the Week throughout the day and evening on WQXR.

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