BEACH AT HER BEST (YET AGAIN, AND LASTLY)
Melvyn M. Sobel | Freeport (Long Island), New York | 03/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With this third installment, Joanne Polk completes her consistently thoughtful, exceptionally performed and unforgettably diverse traversal of the solo piano music of New England's own, Mrs. Amy Beach [1867-1944]. In reviews of Volume 1 ("By the Still Waters") [February 11, 2003] and Volume 2 ("Under the Stars") [October 24, 2000], never having heard any of these works before, and being caught completely off guard by the continuous melodic invention, ingenuity and personal voice of Beach, I had hoped to adequately express my excitement and enthusiasm. There were wonders here unique to the repertoire--- the marvelous Variations on Balkan Themes, Op. 60, the attractive miniatures of Op. 128, the Valse-Caprice, Op. 4, the mournful Hermit Thrush "dialogues" of Op. 92--- that needed talking about.Volume 3 ("Fireflies") offers, if possible, piano music even more strikingly original than its predecessors. There are inspired creations here, too--- the lyrical, Schumannesque Four Sketches, Op. 15, the delightfully comic, almost jazzy Fantasia, Op. 87, with its slips and slurs trippingly mindful of Bach, the forward-looking miniatures of Op. 148, which subtly recall Brahms, Scriabin and, of all people, Ernesto Lecuona, the atmospheric impressionism of the Nocturne, Op. 107, the wistful Elgar-like ruminations aptly titled From Grandmother's Garden, Op. 97--- that cry out to be recognized and heard.The apostolic Ms. Polk enables us to do both. By her absolute communion with the composer, she transfixes, her breadth of vision, every thought, whim and nuance captured to perfection in a recording of incredible clarity and warmth. Absorption such as this precludes the notion that these pieces can be played any other way.[Running time: 69:38]"