Paul Dykstra uses his wide-ranging imagination in a number of different ways throughout this solo recital for the soul—most importantly his choice of repertoire. The pair of works from Mozart (the first complete in itself; the “encore” the final movement from Sonata No. 14) share the tonality of C Minor and features a restrained and thoughtful Fantasia—its incredible harmonic journey never ceases to amaze—and an “Allegro assai” that’s imbued more with impatience than flowing poise. (More about both of these compositions can be found in our reviews of Paul Badura-Skoda and Jenö Jandó, cross-references below.)
Up next are two B Minor compositions from Chopin and Scarlatti. The Scherzo is a wild ride, frequently thrown at the speakers rather than tossed off with aplomb. Its glorious middle moved along beautifully, teetering most intriguingly on the brink of affectation. The riveting return flew headfast onto the double bar with a millisecond or two that cried out for a retake. After all of the preceding frenetic action, the Sonata was quietly refreshing; even a tad less (dynamics and flow) would be more.
A couple of C-sharp Minor preludes followed (have you cottoned on to the overarching harmonic plan?)
Chopin’s Prelude was a marvel of control, especially the rendering of the treacherous cadenza: a little lightly indeed. The Bach Praeludium (most recently seen in these pages through Till Fellner’s all-Bach CD, cross-reference below) yielded some of the finest playing of the album: a fine legato, deft ornamentation and clear direction combined to make every bar a pleasure.
Slipping into Beethoven’s mighty “Appassionata” Sonata completes the harmonic voyage given that its first note (“C”) is the same pitch as the leading note of its immediate predecessors (“B-sharp”). Here, the playing was less consistent. The “Allegro assai’s” rhythm was not always precise—especially the 16th of the theme that too often slipped into an 8th, leaving the angst of the intended jerkiness for another day. The wondrously dark “Andante con moto” fared much better: the melodic material moved effortlessly through its transformations and the accents hit all of their marks in support of a complex dynamic plan. The “Finale” dashed along with diminished-seventh verve, requiring only consistency in weight and attack to lift this performance from good to great.
The closing music (the first two movements from Roger Rudenstein’s Sonata No. 7) stood in stark contrast and have already been discussed elsewhere (cross-reference below).
Through his program notes—nearly impossible to read the silver descriptions with a frequently green-gray forest as the background—and original “titles” (e.g., “A Winter Fantasy” for the opening Mozart), Dykstra has tried to reach a wider audience by appealing to listeners to explore “Your inner season”). One hopes that the extra-musical marketing will entice more to purchase the CD, but there’s already enough to commend it from the tracks themselves; only staid “purists” might take offence at the renaming of these favourites.
Ah for the good old days, when concerts were attended and records purchased because we had to hear those works! JWR