by Walter Simmons
SUNKEN CATHEDRAL. Jackson Berkey, piano. AMERICAN GRAMAPHONE AG-361.
PERSICHETTI: Piano Sonata No. 9. DEBUSSY: Sunken Cathedral. Arabesque No. 1. RACHMANINOFF: Prelude in G-Sharp Minor, Op. 32, No. 12. DAVIS: Interlude 6.
The chief attraction of this direct-to-disc release is Vincent Persichetti’s Piano Sonata No. 9, the first of his eleven essays in the medium to appear on record. Composed in 1952, the same year as the Concerto for Piano, Four Hands, this 8½-minute work is similar in its integrated multi-sectional design. Yet its unfolding is somewhat less concentrated, offering a more relaxed “American neo-classical” sound, but with engaging sparkle, vitality, and rhythmic punch. Berkey, though a mite heavyhanded, masters the work’s intricacies with considerable panache. Persichetti’s piano sonatas constitute a comprehensive contribution to the contemporary piano repertoire, and provide a rich resource for the intelligent performer. Greater recorded exposure is certainly warranted.
The remainder of this recital is reasonably enjoyable, if somewhat less challenging to the listener. Chip Davis’s Interlude 6 is a sweet, Satie-esque, improvisatory paraphrase of negligible substance. After the statement of its initial idea, it simply ruminates in a pleasant, dreamy sort of way. The lovely Debussy and Rachmaninoff pieces receive competent, sensitive, and expressive readings, although Berkey displays the amateurish habit of exaggerating the duration of final notes.
This is a very pleasing, if brief (26 minutes), recital, nicely balanced to appeal to many tastes, and handsomely produced. American Gramaphone seems mostly to be involved in a form of art-rock, reflected on this release in packaging that is attractively and refreshingly different. The sound of the piano recording is extremely rich and vivid, although there is some obtrusive pre-echo. Several copies were submitted for review, and surfaces ranged from poor to fine. On the whole, a bit of a splurge perhaps, but generally rewarding, and the Persichetti is a distinct plus.