Pianist James Rhodes plays (and talks) up a storm.
James Rhodes has a reputation for courting the controversial. Instead of outrage, recent revelations of his pre-concert nerves drug regime received many tweets in support of his honesty from his peers. Is he a bad-boy (as he might claim), or is he too nerdy for that? His mission to take the "classical" out of classical music is on display on this live 86-minute concert recording, which includes 20 minutes of chat.
Music first, and the program begins beguilingly: a lovely performance of the Bach/ Marcello Adagio with exquisitely judges rubato and a mood of melancholy conveyed with great sensitivity.Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata gets off to a rocky start (those nerves?) with a slightly heavy-handed attack and quavers that race ahead. Rhodes has plenty to say, however, and if he exaggerates things on occassion he is clearly a communicator and never dull.
In his second half, his Rachmaninov C-Sharp Minor Prelude and his Bach/Busoni Chaconne are very fine indeed, but I could have done with more poetry in the Balakirev arrangement of Chopin's Romanza. Bravura showcases and each half: a sparkling Moszkowski Études and the witty Giznburg transcription of In the Hall of the Mountain King.
What about the chat, then? After an awkward start, Rhodes turns out to be informative and pretty engaging, although be warned that he has a penchant for the F-word and sexual anecdotes. Meanwhile, the CD is rather self-consciously made to look like a rock album. (Is "Jimmy" more Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix?) Will this approach win new audiences to piano? We can but hope.
This article appeared in the August, 2012 issue of Limelight Magazine.
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