The Israeli pianist Matan Porat has been making a name for himself with his “narrative based” recitals on Mirare. This latest offering punctuates Schumann’s 21-part Carnaval with assorted miniatures by an eclectic array of 17 others, ranging from Couperin to Kurtág and Stravinsky to Stockhausen.
The result enlarges the playful whimsy and allusions of Schumann’s original, intricately spun out from four punning musical letters, with a series of telling interjections, commentaries and asides to create a beautifully woven, wonderfully entertaining patchwork quilt of pleasing colours and distracting textures. If Porat takes Schumann’s Carnaval too much at face value throughout, emphasising immediacy of expression over its more specific and gnomic associations, it’s a reading that doesn’t inhibit an appreciation of the free-flowing sense of invention that is everywhere in evidence here.
Aside from his bracing traversal of the Schumann, of obvious interest are Porat’s choices of interpolations, each of which allies itself with various aspect of Schumann’s psycho-fantasy. Some claim obvious connections: Schumann’s Arlequinpaired with Couperin’s L’Arlequine, his Pierrot matched to the A manha da Pierrette from the Carnaval Das Crianças of Villa-Lobos. Some share a telling propinquity: the Mazurka from Schumann’s wife, Clara’s Soirée Musicales. Others yet suggest a more glancing association courtesy of the homages by Tchaikovsky (Un poco di Schumann) and Jörg Widmann (Elf Humoresken).
For a measure of Porat’s bewitching conceit, try the transitions from Schumann to Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier and back again before veering off into the second of Webern’s Op. 27 Variations. Or Stockhausen’s dyspeptic Valse Allemande, here lent a delightfully sugared acidity.
In the unabashed idiosyncrasy of his framing of a repertoire staple, Porat may well be on to something. Not least in positing a new way of testing the claim of familiar pieces to attention. Abetted by a judicious selection of other voices, his re-assessment of Carnaval makes its continuing relevance clear.
An excellent recording justifies the choice of a ringing, precisely articulated Steinway D, adroitly framing Porat’s engaging playing.
Performer: Matan Porat p
Label: Mirare MIR502