This collection of Songs of Love quite fittingly lifts off with a homage to J.S. Bach with the Aria from his incredibly constructed Goldberg Variations. Unfortunately, the tempo is a tad too slow and the delivery favours “hesitato” rather than confidently moving lines. On the plus side, Chai has an excellent feel for harmonic “leading”, tasteful realizations of the many ornaments (no two pianists/harpsichordists would duplicate each other) and an ideally balanced voicing.
“Within the house, on every side, lie remembrances of what imagination can do for the better amusement of fortunate children who have to do for themselves much-needed lessons in these days of automatic, ready-made, easy entertainment which deaden rather than stimulate the creative faculty.”
Reading these words again in this “prelude to The Alcotts” from his Concord sonata, Ives demonstrates uncanny foresight and insight to the plight of the world—then (1921) and most assuredly now (just over a century later).
It’s a brilliant choice by Chai with its quotes from Beethoven and Mendelssohn inserted into the composer’s love of his art. Everything moves steadily forward with confidence and assurity until the way is paved for a positive (C major) conclusion just as Beethoven resolved his musical thoughts, ideas and challenges in the mighty Fifth Symphony.
Dedicated to Chai’s mentor, Seymour Lipkin, the disc concludes with Schumann’s Kreisleriana, a work that certainly explores How do I love thee? Let me count the ways from many points of view.
Äußerst bewegt’s perpetual motion is at once characterized by Chai’s ability to deliver forceful and delicate statements as required.
Sehr innig und nicht zu rasch, the longest and gem of the set, is a study in contrasts. Here, the “hesitatos“ are most welcome as the music searches for…as we all do from time to time. The first Intermezzo immediately shatters the opening’s serious tone and the air is filled with “We’re off“ and energy to burn. Intermezzo II is marvellously rhapsodic, then in the coda Chai finds the magical ring in the top register. Not surprisingly it’s a reluctant farewell.
Sehr aufgeregt overflows with vibrant triplets before giving way to a languid second section as the love quest takes a sometimes blue turn. Sehr langsam is a deeply personal profession of caring; it’s a song without words, imbued with a wonderful legato on its way to a conclusion of hope.
Sehr lebhaft is happily coquettish and impish. The next Sehr langsam is in the opposite direction, filled with reverence and relation, and still more of life and love yet to come.
Seher rash speaks directly to positivity, determination and “Look what I can do!”—Chai can do it all—before slipping away into the calm night.
Finally, Schnell und spielend, the most famous of the lot, rightfully never fails to lose its timeless appeal. Chai is a master of vrai dry staccatti that are so important to the overall effect. Then, like so many moments/people in our existence, the music simply disappears. JWR