American Record Guide - 129
March /April 2009
Eric Himy, piano
Centaur 2968-78 minutes
Yet another of Himy's homages to composers he's fond of. This miscellany draws largely from the Preludes, but two of the Images along with several other works are included. It also introduces the pianist's own arrangement of the Prélude a L’Après-Midi d'un Faune. Given his luscious big sound, this gorgeous arrangement comes off almost well enough to make one forget about the missing orchestral colors.
Readers are forewarned that Himy, aided and abetted by his Steingraber & Söhne piano, has a tendency to milk the sonorities for all they are worth. As with much Stokowski, if you believe in a hands-off approach, it's better to look elsewhere for your Debussy fix. Voiles, for example, is stretched to its limit, but all the more effective for daring to be different. La Serenade Interrompue is highly characterized, and The Girl with the Flaxen Hair emotionalized to the extreme.
La Cathédrale Engloutie moves along without any overindulgence and produces some impressive sonorities. Bruyères has a luxuriant simplicity, and Les Terrasses des Audiences au Clair de Lune shares with Canope a timeless sense of expression that sounds just right in Himy's sensitive hands. On the other hand, Feux d'artifice is not held back in its explosion of colors and dashes of light.
Poisson d'or and Reflets dans l'eau make one lament that the rest of the Images were not included. They both have that elegance of rhythm and color so essential to this music. Since Himy returns us to a Debussy world where the haze of impressionism has not been banished, you should avoid this if you insist that everything be exposed to the bright light of day.
Other selections, including the song Beau Soir as arranged by Berkowitz, are most beautifully performed in this outstanding recital, and the pianist's notes are of great interest for their subjective analysis. Homage indeed - here's one pianist I would have welcomed a complete cycle from.
American Record Guide - 167
March /April 2009
Eric Himy, piano
Centaur 2858-78 minutes
Himy's homage series continues with selections from the piano works of Liszt in an assortment and order of his choosing. The 11 pieces range from Funerailles to Mephisto Waltz 1, with stops at the Dante Sonata, Liebesträume 3, and La Campanella along the way. Rarities, such as Nuages Gris and En Reve, are also included.
Mr Himy brings his full virtuosic skills to Busoni's arrangement of La Campanella and accepts Busoni's challenge to outdo the Hungarian master. In the oft-performed Funerailles we find power leavened by expressive lyricism, with the drama never held back. Les Jeux d’Eau à la Villa d'Este and Au bord d'une source carry expression forth with just the right amount of rubato to make it work […]
The Dante Sonata has had many fine performances recently. This is another good one. Both the Valse Oubliée no.1 and Mephisto Waltz no.1 leave little to be desired, save a tendency to slow down at phrase endings. Himy definitely asserts his personality. His notes are also highly personalized, and the recorded sound is plush. [The result] shows an artist willing to avoid the ordinary.
American Record Guide
SCHUMANN: Carnaval with Arabesque; Symphonic Etudes;
Eric Himy, piano-Centaur 2858-78 minutes
At about half an hour of music, Carnaval (1834-35) is one of the largest of Schumann's many collections of short pieces, designed to be performed as a complete work. It is also probably one of the most important collections of piano music from the romantic era. Liszt performed ten sections in 1840 and probably was the first to perform it in its entirety. Rachmaninoff was the first to record it, in 1929, and that recording is legendary (RCA 61265). This work has been performed and recorded by the greatest pianists. Although their standards may have been extremely high, they have only inspired countless pianists in future generations to study, analyze, learn, perform, and record this most fascinating composition.
While traditional musical analysis of melody, harmony, and form may be made on Carnaval, the extra-musical elements carry probably more weight towards a complete understanding of the work. I am indebted to Eric Himy's marvelous notes for giving me a much deeper understanding of Carnaval. And his performance is on a par with his notes. I appreciate his ability to make each section come alive on its own terms, while still seeing the big picture. He includes the Sphinxes movement and plays it much like Rachmaninoff: doubling the cryptic single bass notes an octave lower and using a dynamically shaped tremolo to create a rather ominous sound.
Himy's generous disc also has fine performances of the Arabesque and Symphonic Etudes. He includes all posthumous variations arranged among the main set in the order suggested by Cortot. The piano sound is very good (a first recording with a Steingraeber & Söhne Phoenix Piano).
American Record Guide
RAVEL: Piano Pieces
Eric Himy Ivory - 72009 - 73:50
This is a very appealing interpretation of Ravel!
American pianist Eric Himy seems to have captured the essence of the composer of Miroirs. In this collection he underlines Ravel's talents as a colorist and his skill with dynamics. Une Barque sur l'Ocean evokes the tormented atmosphere shot with light of a Turner painting: whereas Alborada del Gracioso is both vivacious and elegant perhaps more from suggestion (Noctuelles and Oiseaux Tristes), meaning implicitly, while leaving space for the imagination.
In Gaspard de la Nuit, Himy maintains the mystery with Ondine and unleashes a wild storm in Scarbo.The unavoidable Pavane for a Dead Princess allows us to appreciate the precision of his style. La Valse, in Himy's arrangement for solo piano, does not have the full sound we are used to in the version for two pianos. But the spirit of the piece is there, brilliant, precise, and ironic, with many little winks of the eye.
These interpretations bring immediate pleasure, with a humane character that shines from beginning to end, though rather removed from the Mephistophelean and transcendent reading of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli.