Garnet Ungar, with dazzling octaves, was stunning in Funérailles.
-American Liszt Society Newsletter
Garnet Ungar took on and surely mastered the Funérailles from Harmonies poétiques et religieuses.
-Bloomington Herald Times
Pianist Garnet Ungar admirably presents an interesting, well-balanced selection of Schubert's piano works, pairing three celebrated yet rarely recorded "smaller" works (the Ungarische Melodie, the Andante, D. 29, and the Zwei Scherzi, D. 593) with two grandiose works (the Drei Klavierstucke, D. 946, and the posthumous Sonata in A major). Ungar consistently combines an impressively imaginative and nuanced musical sensitivity with a refined technique - beautifully suited to the varied demands of touch, voicing, and brilliance placed upon it. Although his musical intentions are clearly conveyed, there is a complexity to his interpretations that cannot be fully appreciated at a first listening. Ungar's approach is thus in accord with an essential element of Schubert's music, one that inspires numerous facets of interpretation and affects decisions of voicing, pacing, and color. His interpretation of the sonata's Andantino deserves special praise for the craftsmanship of the opening theme and the beautifully controlled texture of its accompaniment.
This is my introduction to the Canadian-born pianist Garnet Ungar, a former student of William Aide, Abbey Simon, and Anton Kuerti; he currently teaches at the University of Evansville in Indiana. His recording debut was with the Brahms Second Concerto (a live recording with the Varna Philharmonic under Charles Demuynck, also on Americus). On this Schubert disc, he offsets familiar masterworks with some quite delightful lesser-known fare. The intimate Ungarische Melodie (a felicitous choice for a pianist named Ungar) insinuates itself in a disarming way and proves the perfect opener, with subtle nuances under perfect control and never sounding self-conscious. These qualities, plus a fine sense of drama, a good feeling for structure, and some beautiful pianissimo playing, make the Piano Pieces, D 946, a complete success. Ungar has a fine control of myriad touches and colors, and this, together with the exceptionally fine recorded sound, makes his version of these three late pieces one of the finest I know, comparable to the great ones by Willhelm Kempff and Lili Kraus. The Scherzos and the Andante offer moments of charm and effervescence and set up high expectations for the magnificence of D 959...I have heard few pianists approach the poignance and drama he brings to the slow movement, which is steady, focused, and unrelenting—a really superlative account...The Scherzo trips with fitting speed and lightness...
Few recordings of the Brahms Piano Concerto # 2 in B-flat… quite equaled the breathtaking intensity that Richter brought to the work, that is, until now. Garnet Ungar…delivers a performance at once powerful and precise. From the opening duet between horn and piano, followed by Brahms's cadenza introduction, Ungar wastes no time establishing a magisterial presence. His playing is specific: each motive is shaped with an identity of its own that remains memorable for the duration of the work, giving the musical material structural integrity. The solidity and passion of Ungar's Brahms has much in common with Richter, but it is no imitation. On the contrary, he is his own man, lending its oceanic form and fistfuls of chord progressions immediacy and intensity. Rarely has the scherzo sounded more robust and urgent, or its compulsive surges so compelling. Ungar finds every opportunity to drive the music forward without taking either motivic material or passagework for granted.
Without sacrificing an iota of rhythmic tension, (Ungar) forsakes shadow for substance in a work that demands just that. He likewise invests the plaintive rhetorical wail of the slow movement with the searing poignancy of a sole survivor.
-Music and Vision
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