We welcome this review from Ionarts guest contributor Seth Arenstein.
Invocation (Bach, Liszt, Ravel, Messiaen, Murail), H. Schuch (Naïve, 2014)
From the opening of the program, Tristan Murail’s Cloches d’adieu, et un sourire, Murail's homage to his teacher, Olivier Messiaen, Schuch began building a quiet, mesmerizing line of music that lasted nearly one hour, through two more works: selections from Liszt’s Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S. 173, and Ferruccio Busoni’s arrangement of Bach’s chorale prelude Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639. The subtle wave lasted in part because Schuch played with barely a pause between the compositions, never leaving the piano bench.
By failing to announce that the works were to be performed en masse, Schuch and WPA took a risk that the Hayes audience would appreciate this uncommon practice and be able to follow along. While some audience members undoubtedly were puzzled, weaving the pieces together worked beautifully in an artistic sense. Schuch’s lyricism, displayed best during the Liszt, and his gorgeous control created a continuous, compelling tension until the Bach-Busoni’s final notes brought the first half to an end. It was as if Schuch had created a single, soft musical statement, despite playing pieces from various historical periods.
Robert Battey, Herbert Schuch is a good pianist, but he inspires more questions than answers (Washington Post, October 19)
Shortly after that, though, Schuch returned to the contemplative, soft playing that dominated the recital. He concluded with La vallée des cloches, a selection from Ravel’s Miroirs. A tone painting written on three staves, it depicts a variety of ringing bells, from heavy Parisian church bells to sweet, hand-held bells. At one point Schuch crossed his left hand over his right, to flick two small bells.
The piano recitals continue later this month, when Washington Performing Arts presents András Schiff (October 26) and Evgeny Kissin (October 28).