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Opera: Virtuoso Fantasies

Artist: Yvar Mikhashoff
Yvar Mikhashoff - Opera: Virtuoso Fantasies CD
Label: Mode
Regular Price: $14.95
On Sale For: $7.48 
Year: 2006
Format: CD


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Specially-priced 2-cd set

Piano transcriptions of some of the most beautiful music ever written!

Yvar Mikhashoff's inspiration to make opera transcriptions in the grand style of Liszt came from none other than John Cage. Cage's Europera 5, written for Mikhashoff in 1991, required him to play six operatic excerpts at the piano, each a specified length with certain dynamic requirements. Finding appropriate transcriptions in the existing repertoire was difficult, and so Mikhashoff eventually decided to draw on his experience as an opera and lieder coach in Austria to experiment with arias he knew and loved.

A piano virtuoso, Mikhashoff performs premiere recordings of his own transcriptions from opera composers who lived in the 20th century, adding a major body of attractive, important new virtuoso piano works to the literature.

Casta Diva from Norma (Bellini), is transcribed in a Chopin-esque style - appropriate since Bellini and Chopin were close friends.

Introduction and Aria: Caro Nome (Verdi) is a fantasy portrait of Gilda, the ill-fated heroine of Rigoletto.

Portrait of Madame Butterfly (Puccini) preserves the high drama of the opera - including the Humming Chorus and the Flower Duet - in a very elaborate rewriting that demands the highest degree of virtuosity.

Pélleas et Mélisande (Debussy) is largely drawn from the orchestral interlude which separates the second and third scenes of Act IV and from the conclusion of the opera's fifth act. These final pages are some of the most touching Debussy ever composed and Mikhashoff has confined his reworking to some delicate touches of decorative arpeggiation and voicing.

Wirtshauswalzer from Wozzeck (Berg) is played by the small off-stage band in the beer garden scene. It combines pure German waltz style with Bergian harmonies.

Vissi d'Arte from Tosca (Puccini), is the unforgettable aria sung by Tosca as she reflects on her life ("I lived for art..."). Here Puccini's music is barely altered - the vocal and instrumental parts combine perfectly.

Trittico Fantasy (Puccini) begins with a set of short reminiscences from Il Tabarro, then moves on to the "Senza Mamma" from Suor Angelica and finally to "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicci.

Bussotti wrote his opera La Racine (premiered at La Scala in 1981) for Mikhashoff — a tour de force as he was onstage as the pianist for the work's 2-hour performance, and was one of the few instruments in the opera's orchestration. Pianobar is a transcription combining the voices and piano music into a 7-movement suite.

Striding Dance comes from Volan's opera The Man with the Footsoles of Wind, about the last days of Arthur Rimbaud in Africa and his return and death in France. Mikhashoff completed the transcription under the direct supervision of the composer.

There was never anyone like pianist Yvar Mikhashoff on Buffalo's music scene before 1973 and there is never likely to be again. He died in 1993 at the age of 52, after two decades of teaching at the University of Buffalo and treating Buffalo audiences to some of the least likely and most idiosyncratically virtuosic piano music imaginable. A new music specialist, he was led to Opera Transcriptions and Paraphrases a la Franz Liszt by John Cage, of all people, whose piece for Mikhashoff "Europera 5" required him to play 6 operatic excerpts (three of them in a Cageian "silence.") That led to a couple years of these amazing Mikhashoff paraphrases of operas by Puccini, Bellini, Verdi, Debussy, Berg and, in his most frequented territory, Busotti and Volans. So here, on two discs, is 80 remarkable minutes of them, recorded all over the world (including Buffalo) and full of miasmic beauty, declamatory virtuosity and no small lunacy. There's nothing else quite like them.

--- Jeff Simon, Buffalo News, Feb.12, 2006

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