Discography and CD Reviews

Since 1994, Connoisseur Society has released solo recordings of music by Franz Liszt, Frederic Chopin, Charles Tomlinson Griffes, Claude Debussy, George Gershwin, Ludwig van Beethoven, Joe Utterback, Robert Schumann and Carl Czerny, and collaborative recordings with pianist Cynthia Raim (Sergei Rachmaninoff and Johannes Brahms) and violinist Galina Heifetz (Frederick Delius).

You may order these CDs by sending an order form to Duquesne University's Mary Pappert School of Music CD Order Form (You will need Adobe Reader © to open this form; you may download your free copy here). You may also use the online store at Connoisseur Society, who produce Wehr's CDs.

Connoisseur Society CD4264
Beethoven - The 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume 4 (2 CDs)

Beethoven — The 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume 4

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This two-disc set includes the last five Beethoven sonatas (op. 101, the Hammerklavier, op. 109, op. 110 and 111), plus Schubert's Sonata in B-Flat Major, op. posth., six of the greatest works ever written for the piano.

See what one of Britain's top critics has to say - read review .

Ottawa Citizen: Five Stars out of five
The first thing you're likely to notice about this set is the extreme clarity and detail of the recorded sound. Connoisseur Society has been at the leading edge of piano recording for decades and each year it sounds further evolved.

But it won't be long before you forget the audio quality as you hear pianist Wehr performing Beethoven's late sonatas to virtual perfection. This is playing of the highest order. Not since Pollini's 1977 recordings have the sonatas in this volume, Beethoven's last five, been rendered with such a combination of meticulous fidelity to the written music and emotional profundity.

Wehr has now recorded all of the Beethoven piano sonatas. If you enjoy Volume 4 you may well decide to acquire the other three. As a bonus, this volume includes an equally impressive account of Schubert's Sonata in B-flat. Highly recommended.

Connoisseur Society CDs are not readily available in Canadian music stores, but you can order them at http://www.connoisseursociety.com .
--Richard Todd

Some of the most interesting playing David Allen Wehr has given us over the course of his Beethoven cycle occurs in this series' fourth and final double-CD set. The pianist underlines the Hammerklavier sonata first movement's drama by stretching the rests to the edge, shaping certain phrases with unusual rubatos while hustling other phrases ahead. This may sound like fragmented, stop/start playing, but that's not the case at all; Wehr conveys a sense of inner urgency and forward-moving sweep tha t's easier to experience than describe.

Although his overly loud dynamics in the Scherzo forgoes the music's cryptic, slightly offhand profile, often-buried motivic and rhythmic counterpoints emerge from the Trio's arpeggiated left-hand figurations. Wehr's brisk tempo for the Adagio sostenuto never seems rushed or severe, due to the natural melodic rise and fall that informs his rubato. His gorgeous legato technique doesn't hurt, either. Indeed, the high caliber of Wehr's pointed, amazingly honest finger work led me to expect more variety of articulation in the fugal finale. Still, one must acknowledge Wehr's rock-solid sustaining power. Wehr proves no less commanding in Op. 101's equally demanding fugue, while his unflappable poise in the Vivace alla Marcia is matched by an infectious sense of "swing".

His fusion of rhythmic verve and lyrical fantasy result in vividly characterized accounts of Op. 110 and Op. 109. The latter's Prestissimo goes like the wind, yet Wehr still manages to make Beethoven's slurred and non-legato phrases distinct (few do, aside from Charles Rosen, Annie Fischer, and Freddy Kempf). In Op. 111's first movement, Wehr's quicker-than-usual Maestoso introduction telegraphs his vehement, headlong approach to the Allegro up ahead. The bleak demeanor and laser-like pianistic finish evokes memories of Pollini's late-'70s DG recording, and that's high praise from these quarters!

Since Schubert's posthumous B-flat Sonata fills out this release more than generously in terms of playing time, it would be20churlish to complain that Wehr eschews the long first-movement exposition repeat.

The pianist's full yet unforced singing tone and long-lined serenity gently draw you in and hold your attention both here and in the Andante sostenuto. Some listeners may find the Yamaha CF111S grand's high register overly bright, yet it's obviously a well-regulated instrument. The ample, realistic sonics are noticeably more reverberant in Op. 101 and 109 than in the other selections.
--Jed Distler
Artistic Quality: 8 Sound Quality: 9

Connoisseur Society CD 4263
Beethoven — The 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume 3 (2 cds)

Beethoven — The 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume 3

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This two-disc set includes Wehr's performances of Op.31, No.1, Op.31, No.2 "Tempest", Op.31, No.3,Op.53 "Waldstein", Op.54, Op.57, "Appassionata", Op.81a "Les Adieux", Op.90.

These eight sonatas span Beethoven's middle period from 1802-1814, a time of political and emotional upheaval for Beethoven's inner and outer world, and include several of his most famous and familiar works. The dark mystery of the "Tempest" Sonata, the almost-blinding brilliance of the "Waldstein" Sonata, the white-hot fury of the "Appassionata" and the tender sadness of the "Les Adieux" Sonata have endeared them to generations of listeners.

See what one of Britain's top critics has to say - read review .

American Record Guide:
I have praised both earlier volumes in this series. Wehr continues his series with the heart of Beethoven's Middle Period compositions. The op. 31 trio of piano sonatas marks the beginning of this period, when Beethoven expressly stated that he wanted to "tread a different path" in his compositions. One listen to the Tempest Sonata op. 31#2 and you will know that we're not in the classical mold of Mozart, Haydn and earlier Beethoven anymore. The famous recitatives, played by Wehr exactly as marked by Beethoven, with the pedal held down, are truly original. It is also important to note that Wehr's dynamic control allows you to hear all of the linear beauty of these parts, in conjunction with the blurred, often dissonant vertical harmonies created by the pedal sustaining all the pitches together.

The Waldsten, Appassionata and Les Adieux Sonatas, among the best known and often recorded, represent the culmination of Beethoven's Middle Peri od. These performances, with superb sonics and intelligent notes, are truly for the ages. For the newcomer, I cannot imagine a better place to begin; and for those of us with many sets of Beethoven sonatas, I am comfortable suggest­ing that your investment in this new series is both justifiable and necessary.

Elsewhere in this issue (under Schumann), I review an Appassionata that I describe as a ‘performance for the moment”. It is very excit­ing and over the top in terms of tempo. Wehr correctly follows Beethoven’s tempo direc­tions, remains fully in control, shapes every musical phrase, and still generates considerable excitement. At the very end, after all of the Presto chords, when the main figuration comes back, listen for the off-beat notes in the left hand. These not only become an intelligi­ble ascending musical line under Wehr’s fin­gers, but by following Beethoven’s explicit accent markings, they help propel the music to its conclusion in a way I have never heard before. All of which, I believe will make this the recording I return to time and time again.

Wehr’s Beethoven will be my reference series for Beethoven’s great contribution to piano repertoire. The more I listen to Wehr, the more I shy20away from the term “interpreta­tion”. Many pianists can be said to “interpret” these masterpieces. Wehr plays them scrupu­lously as written, interjecting little else except those minuscule, but critical, gradations in touch and tempo that produce a musical line. I can’t imagine that Beethoven himself could want anything more—or less. Now, all I have to do is wait for the final installment. The late sonatas will complete this journey and should fully establish David Allen Wehr as one of America’s top pianists.
--James Harrington

Connoisseur Society CD 4262
Beethoven — The 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume 2 (2 cds)

Beethoven — The 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume 2

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This two-disc set includes Wehr's performances of some of Beethoven's most popular and beloved piano sonatas, written between 1798 and 1800. The Sonata in C Minor, op. 13, was given the title "Pathetique" by Beethoven himself because of the work's intense emotionalism. The Two Sonatas, op. 14, are small-scaled jewels, full of humor and lyricism. The composer was particularly proud of the Sonata in B-Flat Major, op. 22, one of his most polished and urbane. The Sonata in A-Flat Major, op. 26, made history by being the first to include a funeral march, "on the death of a hero." The two sonatas, op. 27, are so unusual in form that Beethoven qualified them as "quasi una fantasia", meaning a free structure. The second of the set was given the nickname "Moonlight" by a critic because of its dreamy sounding opening movement. The Sonata in D Major, op. 28, was named the "Pastorale" by its publisher because of its country dances, drone basses, storm scenes and feelings of peace and harmony. Two sonatas from 1809 finish this album, the Sonata in F-Sharp Major, op. 78, a two-movement gem dedicated to one of Beethoven's love interests, and the Sonata in G Major, op. 79, with its rustic German dances. Beethoven's publisher hoped to capitalize on its relative shortness for the student market, but the music's rhythmic trickiness sabotaged that strategy.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Four stars (out of four):
In a double-disc set that includes the "Pathetique" and "Pastorale" Sonatas, Pittsburgh-based David Allen Wehr is commanding from note one, nearly every phrase crackling with a smart, original, fulsome emotional response.
--David Patrick Stearns

See what one of Britain's top critics has to say - read review .

American Record Guide:
I praised Volume 1 of this series and was very happy to see Volume 2 arrive for review. Wehr is continuing his series in chronological order, as opposed to the nor­mal opus number order. Many of the sonatas with titles are included in this volume: Pathe­tique, Funeral March, Moonlight, and Pastorale. The superlatives I used for Volume 1 are all applicable here; Wehr exhibits the same high level of interpretive and technical skill. His approach is to execute Beethoven’s text as faithfully as humanly possible, letting these masterpieces speak for themselves. The exem­plary sound captured from his Yamaha CF111S and his perceptive liner notes complete a delightful release. I suspect that this series will become my reference set.

While each of the ten sonatas here has special moments worthy of mention, I will limit myself to a discussion of the first Opus 27 sonata (No 13). It is the first Sonata quasi una fantasia and, in many ways, it is more revolu­tionary than its much better known compan­ion, the Moonlight. Its four sections are to be played without pause, and Be ethoven makes the most of contrasts, even in each section. Wehr doesn’t miss a thing, beginning with the quiet Andante opening, interrupted by an Alle­gro of much energy. The scherzo section is particularly notable, both for Beethoven’s genius and Wehr’s performance. In the open­ing sections, the hands are identical in rhythm and articulation. The contrast is a bumptious, galloping trio. The experimental Beethoven finds a unique way to vary the opening sec­tions on the return of the scherzo. It starts as a traditional da capo form, but rather than sim­ply replaying the first two sections without repeats, Beethoven adds a written out repeat of the first section where the performer is asked to alternate hands rhythmically and keep the left hand constantly staccato, while the right hand is phrased. This continues through the second section (not repeated) and into an added coda. Here Wehr’s ability to exe­cute Beethoven’s clear desires of articulation a t the requisite Allegro molto e vivace tempo is astounding. A beautifully phrased Adagio con espressione section ends with high-register trills and an elegantly shaped cadenza leading to the final rondo section. Wehr’s consummate technique hides the substantial, difficulties of this rondo: many episodes require both hands to play right on top of each other, several times the traditional left hand Alberti bass figura­tions are inverted, and leaps abound from one register of the piano to anot her. The big climax doesn’t lead directly into the Presto coda as expected. Beethoven inserts a recap of the Adagio section before the headlong rush to the final cadence. Every one of these is handled with the utmost artistry and musicality. Given Wehr’s performance, one can only wonder why this masterpiece is not better known. Needless to say, he lavishes the same detail and care on each of the sonatas. I enjoy all the ones I have and eagerly await the next installment.
--James Harrington

A large-scaled, imaginatively phrased, virile account of the "Pathétique" sonata begins the second double-CD installment of David Allen Wehr's Beethoven cycle. With little help from the sustain pedal, Wehr's sharp accents, hair-trigger dynamics, and incidental inflections vivify the outer movements' dramatic mood swings. The central Andante cantabile is not too fast, not too slow, and is as heartfelt and flexible as the finest performances on disc. The Op. 14 sonatas also are well paced and characterfully judged. Wehr's marvelous legato touch mostly results from fingers rather than feet. Wehr brilliantly conveys Op. 22's Rossini-like lightness and sly humor. The Menuetto is brisk and uncommonly=2 0curt, where the highly profiled left-hand accompaniment suggests a plausible Glenn Gould rendition (Gould's incomplete recording of the sonata remains unreleased).

Linear clarity and rigorous tempo relationships cast an intellectual hue on Op. 26's opening variation movement, in contrast to Ronald Brautigam's antipodal, more improvisatory approach. The Funeral March makes a fleeter, less grim impression than you'd expect, while Wehr's steady sobriety and carefully differentiated articulation impart a kind of symphonic gravitas to the Allegro finale that we rarely encounter. Both Op. 27 sonatas stand out for the pianist's controlled freedom in the opening movements.

If Op. 79 isn't quite so angular and playful on the level of Artur Schnabel or Richard Goode, Wehr's attention to detail and inner sense of the music proves more satisfying than, say, Paul Lewis' tensionless, prettified playing. The Yamaha CF111S grand's glassy high registers may not be to everyone's taste, yet it's clearly an imposing, gorgeously regulated instrument. How will Wehr fare in the great middle-period sonatas? Stay tuned for Volume 3; I know I will.
--Jed Distler
Artistic Quality: 9 Sound Quality: 9

Connoisseur Society CD 4261
Beethoven — The 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume 1 (2 cds)

Beethoven — The 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume 1

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Announcing the first installment of Wehr's Beethoven Sonata Cycle, Connoisseur Society CD 4261, the first of four 2-CD sets encompassing all 32 of Beethoven's magnificent sonatas (plus the Schubert Sonata in B-Flat Major, op. posth. as a bonus!). The first set includes nine works: the three virtuoso sonatas, op. 2, composed when Beethoven was in his early twenties, the big Sonata in E-Flat Major, op. 7, the three sonatas, op. 10, bursting with the composer's charisma, and the two charming little sonatas, op. 49, chips from the master's workshop. This set includes liner notes by the artist, written in a jargon-free style accessible to the layperson, but interesting to the dedicated classical listener as well.

American Record Guide, November/December 2006:
David Allen Wehr is a mature artist in his prime. He is armed with an unfailing technique and keen, fresh insights that make him more than ready to climb the Mt Everest of piano literature. Frankly, I was blown away by these first nine sonatas (chronological) in this generous two-disc set. I enjoyed every hearing of these early works, and found new superlatives for both Beethoven and Mr. Wehr on each occasion. In general, the faster movements have an infectious rhythmic vitality that drew me deep into the music and did no let go until the final notes died away. The slow movements are lavished with elegant, refined, and beautifully shaped phrases. Wehr’s attention to every detail in these scores is more of what I have come to expect from great artists performing late Beethoven sonatas. It is a revelatory approach to the early ones. While one may marvel at the little discoveries Wehr subtly points out everywhere in this music, one is also never in doubt about his conception of the musical architecture – not only of each movement, but of the sonata as a whole.

Wehr’s program notes are on the same high level as his playing. His Yamaha CF 111S is vividly captured. This entire, top-notch project is what I have come to expect over the past 30 years from producer E. Alan Silver and Connoisseur Society.

Audiophile Audition, September 2006:
Four Stars (out of four)
The beginning of a complete cycle of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, this survey (rec. 2002-2004) begins auspiciously, with Wehr playing Beethoven with both a fleet and determined ethos; the accents in the opening F Minor Sonata, for example, fierce, and the last movement's Prestissimo taken at full tilt. Volatility and refinement alternate in rapid succession here and in the ensuing A Major Sonata. While Wehr takes outer sections of the sonatas at a brisk tempo, he lavishes nice attention to Beethoven's slower movements, and the Largo from op. 7 proves quite special. Wehr's middle range in the E-Flat proves particularly resonant, the opening movement muscular and affectionately bright. Some deft pedaling keeps the dynamic levels from becoming too overpowering; we forget how this sonata reveals so much of the later, spacious mass in Beethoven.

Wehr's approach to the C Minor Sonata, op. 10#1 calls for crisp attacks and poised reflection. The gestures, dramatically compact, occasionally rocket forth while the bass line becomes quite muscular. Wehr demonstrates a variegated touch throughout the course of the first movement, though the mood remains darkly sober. Slow, deliberate fioritura unfolds in the second movement, whose haltering presence might hearken back to Mozart's C Minor Fantasy. The finale bubbles with nervous energy, the figures tumbling over themselves, a virtuosic blend of force and humor. Wehr injects some propulsion into the otherwise genial F Major Sonata, op. 10#2. At times sounding like a study in staccato or a toccata in broken style, the piece jaunts along amiably. The hybrid second movement, neither minuet nor scherzo, possesses a mysterious charm, unspoken romance. The finale hops like a deft circus performer, a weirdly flamboyant gigue, maybe a drinking song.

Following Sviatoslav Richter's motto of non-integral listening, I went to the G Minor Sonata, op. 49#1, whose opening slow movement has a smooth, haunted melancholy. For a piece Beethoven did not want published, it has a singular delicacy. The last movement proceeds with a light touch, hints of Haydn in several episodes. The G Major Sonata op. 49#2 has no dynamic indications, so Wehr takes it at a rapid stride, emphasizing its mercurial, quick juxtapositions of touch. Quite exhilarating. A slight ritard makes the finale pert and interesting, its familiarity guaranteed by its orchestration in Beethoven's Septet op. 20.

The C Major Sonata op. 2#3 challenges Wehr's ability to sustain a large canvas rife with gristle and muscle. The sforzati come like bolts of lightning, the Yamaha CFIIIS resonating in grand form. Much of the rolling arpeggiation anticipates the later Tempest and Appassionata Sonatas. The landings at cadences prove most effective. The second movement plays out as much Schumann as Beethoven, a lovely song distinguished by pregnant pauses that might have been attached to Schumann's Fantasy-Pieces op. 12. Nice execution of the tripping Scherzo whose accents refuse to line up in orderly fashion. The trio might be a minor descent into the maelstrom. Wehr's finale suggests that Liszt etudes would not be a stretch for his light, deft hands. Rocket figures and lithe trills tie this dashing Rondo into a colorful, bravura package.

Ever since I first auditioned the D Major Sonata op. 10#3 with Richter, and then Horowitz, it has become a staple, even a touchstone, for judging Beethoven interpretation. Emotionally and structurally, it seems to lie at a crossroads, pushing the Classical envelope far into uncharted, Romantic territories with its harmonic and dynamic outbursts. The first movement's visceral energies exemplify the sturm und drang ethos. Wehr brings its kaleidoscopic range of feeling to a rollicking close. The slow movement steps forward from another dimension, a painfully slow, obsessive meditation that looks back hauntingly to Mozart. Wehr provides the juxtaposed Minuet and its rustic Trio a naivete every bit as transparent as the Largo was lugubrious. The three-note motif which dominates the Rondo cannot counter the deep turmoil we experienced earlier in the Largo, but Wehr pushes it for its cornucopia of ideas, all tumbling out together, a fitting conclusion to a Beethoven set that presents dexterity and musical intelligence at every turn.
--Gary Lemco

Classics Today, October 2006:
It's 2006, the Mozart and Shostakovich anniversary year, and the Beethoven piano sonata business shows no sign of letting up. In addition to recent complete cycles from Stephen Kovacevich, Seymour Lipkin and Craig Sheppard (plus many others I've not had a chance to review), Garrick Ohlsson is well on his way toward the finish line, tailed by editions-in-progress from Kun Woo Paik, Paul Lewis, Andras Schiff, Gerhard Oppitz and Ronald Brautigam. Connoisseur Society now enters the Beethoven sonata sweepstakes with David Allen Wehr, whose artistry easily holds its own in the company of distinguished Beethoven pianists past and present.

In many respects, the best of what both Walter Gieseking and Solomon offered in their tragically curtailed 1950s Beethoven cycles finds a modern counterpart via Wehr's pure, unforced tone, poised, symmetrical fingerwork, spare use of the sustaining pedal, and classical reserve. Wehr rightly feels Beethoven's minuet movements in a brisk one-beat-to-the-bar, and slow movements tend to move faster than usual, though with more lyrical repose than the dry-eyed militancy Kovacevich or Gulda sometimes project. Moreover, Wehr's fabulous left-hand technique plays a crucial role in vivifying the linear specificity that characterizes Beethoven's piano writing, especially in these earlier sonatas' leaner, more exposed textures. He takes particular care to distinguish detached and slurred phrases, articulate note values and rests, and observe the composer's signature subito dynamics, and does so without missing the forest for the trees, so to speak.

Warming up with a well played op. 2#1, Wehr launches into op. 2#2 at full throttle. In op. 2#3's first movement Wehr admirably juxtaposes fire and brio with discreetly elongated, dramatically timed silences. Op. 7's finale is lyrically phrased.

Wehr is at the top of his game in the op. 10 triumvirate. I'm quite impressed with op. 10#1's finale, where, like Gould and Gulda, Wehr commands the dexterity to make the controversial Prestissimo marking plausible. All the slow movements benefit from focused and shapely left-hand accompaniments that help keep the lyrical right-hand lines alive and afloat. The two "easy" op. 49 sonatas receive gracious, unpretentious readings that stand with the best, although Wehr's headlong conception of no. 2's first movement might raise a few eyebrows. Thanks to veteran producer E. Alan Silver, the sonics reflect the realism of a small concert venue and faithfully capture Wehr's beautifully regulated Yamaha grand.
Rating: Artistic Quality: 9/10, Sound Quality: 9/10
--Jed Distler

Connoisseur Society CD 4252
Rachmaninoff Preludes/Fantasy-Pieces; Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition

Connoisseur Society CD 4252

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The soul of Mother Russia permeates this release of Russian favorites. Wehr plays four Rachmaninoff preludes, including the romantic prelude in D Major, the irresistible Russian march of the prelude in G Minor, the wintry sleigh-bells on the steppes of the prelude in G-Sharp Minor and the triumphant virtuosity of the Prelude in B-Flat Major.

Rachmaninoff's Fantasy-Pieces op. 3 were written when the composer was still an 18-year-old student at the Moscow Conservatory, but the set includes his most famous work, the Prelude in C-Sharp Minor, dubbed the Bells of Moscow. The prelude's instant worldwide success made the composer a household name, but the rest of the set is equally beautiful, including the melancholy Elegy, the tuneful Melodie, the playful Polichinelle (named after the clown in the Italian commedia dell'arte) and the seductive Serenade. Following these Rachmaninoff miniatures, Wehr plays Modeste Mussorgsky's monumental masterpiece, Pictures at an Exhibition.

Written after the composer's visit to the memorial exhibition of the works by his late friend, Victor Hartmann, the work describes ten of the paintings, connected by the Promenade theme, which represents Mussorgsky himself walking around the gallery. He delights in the grotesque lumbering about of Gnomus (in the shape of a nutcracker), the heartfelt troubador's song in The Old Castle, the graphic realism of the Children Playing in the Tuileries Garden and the farmer's tipsy song in Bydlo (The Oxcart), the delicate chirping of the Ballet of the Chicks in Their Shells, the different intonations of Two Polish Jews (a picture which Mussorgsky himself loaned to the exhibition), the chattering frenzy of The Marketplace at Limoges, the spooky Catacombs, the terrifying witch Baba-Yaga riding through the night, and finally the triumphant, concluding Great Gate of Kiev, complete with ringing bells and chanting monks. All in Connoisseur Society's legendary piano sound!

Audiophile Audition (four stars):
Pianist David Allen Wehr has built an impressive discography, and he now adds some hearty Russian staples to his legacy. His opening Rachmaninov group consists of four preludes, the first three of which testify to the liquid phrase and the composer's penchant for nostalgia, although the G Minor's outer sections shimmer with military pomp. The B-flat Prelude, however, has a Lisztian flair and bravura - a convulsive theatricality. The ensuing Op. 3 (1892) pieces include the ubiquitous Prelude in C Sharp Minor, which Wehr takes with pregnant pauses. The lovely Elegie and Melodie permit us to savor Wehr's legato, while the irreverent Polichinelle bounces with allusions both to Schumann and to the Commedia dell'arte in the form of puppet theater.

To compete in the intimidating market of available inscriptions of Pictures at an Exhibition (1874) is already a sign of pianistic confidence, and Wehr has plenty of digital firepower to compare with the titanic readings of Richter, Graffman, and Horowitz. Wehr does not pound away in heaven-storming fury. He can achieve a febrile glitter, as in the Tuilleries gardens; the grotesque Gnomus, with its approximation of twelve-tone sonority, is menacing in the way of Poe's Hop-Frog. I found Bydlo, the Polish ox-cart, compelling. The descent into the Catacombs reminds us that Moussorgsky is on a spiritual journey akin to Dante's - a conversation with the dead, and then a vision of folkish horror in Baba Yaga, culminating in an apotheosis of the Promenade in the Great Gate of Kiev, aka the Kingdom of Heaven. Recorded March 2001 at the Music Hall in Tarrytown, NY, the Yamaha CF 111 S has a superb resonance, courtesy of producer E. Alan Silver. Solid musicianship here, and piano collectors will cherish Wehr's sympathy for Rachmaninov.
--Gary Lemco

American Record Guide May/June 2006:
Here are two views of "Pictures" that could not be more unalike. Vladimir Feltsman presents the work as a virtuoso showpiece, dazzling the listener with his precision and sheer power. Wehr's "Pictures" have more shades of color; he holds back his fortissimos for when they are really needed. While Feltsman's Steinway has a sparkling, brilliant tone, Wehr's Yamaha is mellower, with impressive bass sonorities. Wehr brings more characterization to the keyboard, particularly in movements like "Gnomus"-full of grotesqueries and ill omens. Overall I give the nod to Wehr's creativity over Feltsman's bravado, but your mileage may vary.

Wehr's Rachmaninoff is as nuanced and gorgeously played as his Mussorgsky. Both records have excellent sonics. Wehr played at the Music Hall in Tarrytown, New York, where the Connoisseur Society engineers produced one of the best solo piano recordings I have heard.
-- Mark Koldys

Connoisseur Society CD 4244
Robert Schumann: Symphonic Etudes
and David's-League Dances
Carl Czerny: The Art of Finger Dexterity,
op. 740, Volume 1

Connoisseur Society CD 4244

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Wehr inhabits the shade and the sun of these vibrant works; it's good to hear Schumann's Symphonic Etudes performed with such conviction and sensitivity. A warm and playful reading of Schumann's masterpiece "David's-League Dances" completes the disc.

Clavier Magazine, September 2006 :
This recording is a testament to Wehr, who presents the monumental 1834 version of the Symphonic Etudes, the earlier of two versions, which he believes reflects the best inspiration of the composer. He also includes the five additional variations Brahms published after Schumann's dearth. Wehr plays with the finely judged tempos I hear in Marc-Andre Hamelin's recording, a subtlety similar to Grainger, the technical finesse of Geza Anda, and the freedom of Gieseking. On balance, I prefer Wehr's recording to any of these.

The technical mastery of Wehr is evident in powerful Romantic playing that is imbued with passion and colorful nuances, complementing Schumann's imaginary characters, Florestan, Eusebius, and Raro in the music.

Schumann once wrote to Clara about the Davids-League-Dances, "If ever I was happy at the piano, it was while composing these." Wehr brings out the elation Schumann most likely felt while writing this work, which he presented to Clara as a gift at the time he proposed to her. A broad range of pedaling supports the performances and adds depth to the interpretation. This creative, magical pedaling is a hallmark of all Wehr's recordings.

Carl Czerny, a student of Beethoven and teacher of Liszt, composed over 1000 works, mostly studies and exercises that fell out of style in the second half of the 20th century. Wehr's performance of the "Art of Finger Dexterity" could easily revive interest among pianists to explore again the works of Czerny. This recording is for any pianist interested in renewing his enthusiasm for Czerny; and if you love Schumann, this recording is for you.

Another recording of equal artistic quality by Wehr that I recommend is Rachmaninoff Fantasy Pieces op. 3 and Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition.
--Walden Hughes

Connoisseur Society CD 4199:
Franz Liszt Transcriptions from the Operas of Richard Wagner

Connoisseur Society CD 4199

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Fanfare: One would have to go back to Daniel Barenboim's 1983 program to find a collection of this fare comparably resourceful, satisfying, realized as the largesse David Allen Wehr has spread before us here. Everything comes off with such surefire flair that one returns to this program many times with deepening pleasure. The artist's graceful, informed notes underline his performing prescience. Enthusiastically recommended.

Stereophile: Wehr's expansive playing throughout is both exciting in its sweep and lyrically reflective when necessary. Listening to this dramatically imposing set of performances, full of dynamic variety, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the collection.

Classical CD Digest: Wehr's playing is sensitive to the dramatic values inherent in these pieces, as well as their orchestral sonorities. In the Solemn March to the Holy Grail from Parsifal, he plays the softest pianissimo I have ever heard in the concluding bars!

American Record Guide: Wehr is a skilled and sensitive pianist, having won First Prize over a nasty, knuckle-busting field at the Santander Competition in 1987 (and I believe he was second only to Stephen Hough in the Naumburg in 1983). Wehr has all the technique one could wish for and plenty of flair for this kind of repertory. Especially worth mention are the never-heard excerpt from "Meistersinger", which is winsome, rapturous and beguiling, and the incredible three-handed texture of the Festival and Bridal Song from" Lohengrin". Wehr fools me into hearing two pianos as one, and anyone who has attempted to play the opening passage of this piece can attest to its cruel difficulty. Wehr invests the many great melodies with rather Cliburnesque lyricism and sense of the arch of the phrase. On the basis of this disc, I'm certainly looking forward to hearing more of Wehr.

Bay Area Reporter: David Allen Wehr reminds me of Josef Hofmann. Nothing in this collection seems to phase him technically, yet nothing is mere empty display. Listen to the way the Meistersinger excerpt grows until it simply sweeps everything in its path. Wehr's performances sound utterly spontaneous and improvisational, as if the music were being composed as we hear it. It is both seductive and exhilarating. I can think of many singers who could profit from studying this recording.

Connoisseur Society CD 4205:
Charles Tomlinson Griffes: Piano Music

Connoisseur Society CD 4205

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Philadelphia Inquirer: Four Stars. The highly virtuosic pianist David Allen Wehr proves an excellent advocate for Griffes. These are first-class readings that, for all their power and splash, do not slight the music's poetry.

New York Daily News: Four Stars. The music is all played with strength and sensitivity by David Allen Wehr. Very highly recommended.

Fanfare: I found David Allen Wehr's Griffes recital an ear-opening release, lucid and luminous in equal measure.

Music and the Arts: Wehr's wide-ranging dynamics, coloristic flair and suave touch are perfectly suited to the music.

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Intoxicating music with pianism to match.

Connoisseur Society CD 4211:
Chopin Nocturnes (complete)

Connoisseur Society CD 4211

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American Record Guide: Wehr, a master pianist, offers compelling readings that every devoted Chopin-lover should find both challenging and rewarding. Wehr is fleet and extroverted. The early works are dispatched with requisite sensitivity, the later ones on a truly grand scale, in turn restless and turbulent, quiet and reflective.

Ottawa Citizen: If you love Chopin, you should hear American David Allen Wehr play his 21 Nocturnes. He avoids sentimentalizing these intensely romantic pieces, yet he brings rare purpose and feeling to them.

Pianoforte: Like Russia, the United States continues to produce a stream of fine pianists, and David Allen Wehr is certainly among the most outstanding. It is often hard to believe that this is the same high-powered pianist encountered on the Wagner-Liszt CD. The impression given is of a pianist searching into the composer's introspections, and his ability is particularly noted in the darker works where he creates real expressive tension. In more serene moments, Mr. Wehr delivers a finely shaped lyricism devoid of sentimentality. Contemplation and meditation accompany the questing, but in an attempt to reveal the truths within the music. The first time I heard this issue I listened to all 21 Nocturnes without a break, and found the experience rapturous, rewarding and impressive.

Connoisseur Society CD 4214:
Rachmaninoff Suites for Two Pianos (with Cynthia Raim)

Connoisseur Society CD 4214

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American Record Guide: Atmospheric and enthralling...One would have to go back to the days of Bauer and Gabrilowitsch to find two-piano playing of this caliber. But why bother when there are pianists like Raim and Wehr around. Grab this disc; it doesn't get any better than this! Record of the Year 1998

Billboard: This is the piano album I've listened to more than any other in recent months.

Pianoforte: Here are two fine artists who sound as if they might have stepped right out of a Russian academy. They allow the composer's melodies and phrases a natural shape without ever imposing technique on them, with a great feeling of contrast, light and shade. Has the Waltz for piano duet ever sounded more delightful and playful? This is a lovely disc. If you are one of those who still think musicianship can only come from points east, this may convince you otherwise.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Two pianos have rarely sounded so fine. Philadelphia's Cynthia Raim has technique to burn and sensitivity to spare; she has met her match in David Allen Wehr. Despite the challenges of a clanging medium, you won't find a moment of aggressive pounding as these artists reveal the pleasures of Rachmaninoff's mood-drenched, considerable challenges.

Fanfare: The Raim/Wehr duo gives quite remarkable performances, the freedom of expression having a passion and a spontaneity you normally associate with the concert hall rather more than on disc. Yet this freedom never interrupts the flow of the music. The weight between the two pianists is absolutely flawless.

Connoisseur Society CD 4219:
Debussy Piano Music

Connoisseur Society CD 4219

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American Record Guide: In its musical honesty and expressive forthrightness, Wehr's Debussy has much in common rhythmically with Cortot's. He combines every bit of Howat's magisterial technique with Gieseking's magic, but also Cortot's warmth and vulnerability. This is a splendid disc, indispensable for the serious collection.

Fanfare: This is a superbly played, handsomely recorded recital of a Debussy hit parade. Wehr does not approach this material in a traditional way, but his playing is finely nuanced, within the context of a rhythmically taut pulse. Wehr exercises intelligence and intuitive dramatic phrasing throughout; this is fresh, alert Debussy playing.

Connoisseur Society CD 4224:
Delius Sonatas for Violin and Piano (with Galina Heifetz); Piano Music

Connoisseur Society CD 4224

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American Record Guide: These are among the finest performances of the violin and piano sonatas that I have heard. No one has a clearer idea of how to shape Delius's endless melodic lines. The pieces for piano are exquisitely rendered by Wehr. I don't think I've ever heard anyone get so completely under Delius's skin as this duo does. The music breathes so naturally, a huge plus.

Ottawa Citizen: This is one of the best-recorded violin and piano recitals I've ever come across, a complete pleasure in every way. For those who like Delius, this collection is a must.

Connoisseur Society CD 4222:
Brahms Hungarian Dances and Waltzes for Piano Duet (with Cynthia Raim)

Connoisseur Society CD 4222

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Fanfare: I cannot imagine this music being presented with such overwhelming élan as the Raim/Wehr duo displays on this release. The playing creates a sense of two gifted artists egging each other on to ever higher levels of musicianship, virtuosity and sheer fun-whether or not I am right in suspecting that a lot of smiling must have been going on in the studio, they certainly made me smile again and again. Raim and Wehr are irresistible.

American Record Guide: Raim and Wehr (whose marvelous Chopin Nocturnes I have praised in these pages) offer up these Brahmsian sweetmeats in such luscious performances that they fill one's soul with sheer joy. Add absolutely gorgeous sound and this disc is a must-have.

Connoisseur Society CD 4227:
Beethoven Moonlight, Pathetique, Hammerklavier Sonatas

Connoisseur Society CD 4227

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American Record Guide: Mr. Wehr's technically dazzling and interpretively probing playing is by turns, exciting, powerful and gripping. Sometimes meditative and sometimes thunderous, he plays these sonatas as if his life depended on it, much as Beethoven himself might have played them. He breathes new life into the Moonlight and Pathetique Sonatas, and his Hammerklavier approaches Schnabel's spiritually monumental interpretation. This is altogether splendid and exalted Beethoven playing; if you care about Beethoven sonatas, don't miss this.

Connoisseur Society CD 4228:
Utterback Concert Fantasy on Gershwin's Porgy and Bess; Utterback originals

Connoisseur Society CD 4228

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Fanfare: Utterback's brilliant treatments complement the pleasure that is intrinsic in Gershwin's melodies. It takes no effort to enjoy this music. The lion's share of the original material is bluesy and mellow. What I can say with assurance is that this is a great CD to put your feet up and to "chill" by. If you're looking for traditional late-night pianism, you've come to the right place.

American Record Guide: The way Utterback moves from something that sounds like a night in Harlem to a flash from a Scriabin light show is the distinctive pleasure of this album.

To find out more about Joe Utterback's music, visit www.jazzmuze.com.

Chandos 8761 20th-Century American Piano Music

Chandos 8761 20th-Century American Piano Music

(Temporarily out-of-print)

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American Record Guide: Wehr is fully up to the virtuoso technical challenges of the Barber Sonata, and plays the Copland Variations with confidence and commitment. The lucid Chandos recording makes this record a valuable addition to libraries dedicated to contemporary piano music.

Music and Musicians International: This disc contains some marvelous music, not all of it previously recorded, performed with conviction by the young American virtuoso David Allen Wehr. His performances here reveal him to have a deep understanding of the "American-ness" of this music, whatever form that may take. One is left with a sense of exuberance after listening to this disc: the performances are marvelous and the music fascinating.

Gramophone: A most absorbing program, compellingly performed. The Barber Sonata, of course, is an excellent benchmark for the talents of any pianist and in the restless lyricism of the second subject I began to feel rather than hear David Allen Wehr's quality-the manner is expansive, the ebb and flow of the phrase-line beautifully placed, and he conveys so well the futility of this recurring idea as it repeatedly tries, and fails, to establish a lyric calm with the movement. No less impressive is his sustained way with the sinuous harmonies and grandly sonorous climax of the slow movement, while the piquant scherzo and unstoppable finale are fearlessly encountered.

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