Godowsky: Twelve Impressions/ Nazrin Rashidova, violin; Roderick Chadwick, piano


Aside from a few largely unavailable Heifetz recordings of a couple pieces here, the music for violin and piano by Leopold Godowsky on this Naxos recording is not to be found elsewhere on disc. Godowsky's Twelve Impressions of 1916 is the most substantial work on the program, framed by several brief transcriptions of the composer's solo piano pieces called Poems. It's all beautifully performed by violinist Nazrin Rashidova and pianist Roderick Chadwick.

Leopold Godowsky was born in Žasliai, in what at the time was part of Russia, but is now a region of Lithuania. His musical gifts were apparent at a very early age; he began touring East Prussia performing on both piano and violin at the age of ten. Receiving few formal lessons, he was virtually self-taught. Godowsky made his first concert appearances in North America at the age of fourteen, in Boston. He spent the height of his career composing, teaching and performing throughout Europe and North America, as well as touring South America and East Asia. Suffering financial distress in the Wall Street Crash of 1929, a stroke, the death of his wife and the suicide of his son Gordon, Godowsky endured extremely difficult final years to his life, eventually succumbing to cancer at the age of 68.

As a composer, Godowsky is best known for his paraphrases of music by other composers. Many of these pieces are known notoriously by pianists to be among the most difficult to perform in the repertoire. His cadenza and fugue on Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony was declared unplayable by Vladimir Horowitz, who stated it would take six hands to perform (yet, it is available on CD, recorded by Marc-Andre Hamelin, Ian Hobson and Konstantin Scherbakov - two handed pianists all!).

This music is alluring and colorful, strangely romantic, often melancholy and, well, rather difficult to describe - which makes a good segue to the introduction of the sample track from the CD where you can hear the music for yourself. It's the opening track on the album, Avowal, a charming transcription of Godowsky's piano piece, Poem No. 2. Ms. Rashidova and Mr. Chadwick capture the charisma and charm of the music in performances that are technically secure, musically beguiling and stylistically, seem to be right in the idiom of each of Godowsky's creations. In all, this is a delightful hour of extraordinary and exotic music.

Nazrin Rashidova and Roderick Chadwick perform Moszkowski's Spanish Dance No. 2