Manic masterpieces: an eclectic piano recital for the masses.
I hate to sound like an old fogy here but I guess it’s unavoidable. James Rhodes is a British pianist whose rocketing career is fuelled by media-savvy management, celebrity endorsements and an individual presentational style combining the downmarket look of Nigel Kennedy with a troubled rock star rep: a history of mental issues, a failed marriage, and the inevitable refusal to toe the line. While many classical musicians have had broken marriages and some have suffered breakdowns, few have used that information to market a persona. (Rhodes is a better pianist than David Helfgott, incidentally.)
Rhodes’ notes on the music are subtly ingratiating: the Toccata from Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin is “me wrestling with London Transport as I head off on the tube to see my shrink”. What it is not, in Rhodes’ splashy rendition, is a meticulous salute to the Baroque clavecinist.The Scherzo from Beethoven’s Sonata Op 31 No 3 suits Rhodes with its snappy sforzandi, but other fast pieces are messy (single movements from sonatas by Alkan and Chopin), while Debussy’s La plus que Lente and Ravel’s Pavane lack poetry. This release is aimed at people who don’t know the music. That’s to be encouraged, no doubt, but the informed fogy can do better.
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