August 2001

Chitose Okashiro - Wagner Piano Transcriptions
Pro Piano Recordings PPR224521
Released: 1999

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on CD]The very idea of transcribing the music or Richard Wagner for the solo piano sounds so daunting as to make the task seem almost an impossibility. Wagner’s music is so dense, powerful and complex that, despite the piano's ability to reproduce a veritable plethora of musical colors, such transcription requires great talent not only from the transcriber, but from the pianist.

Chitose Okashiro succeeds quite nicely, thank you. Playing the transcriptions of Kocsis ("Einleitung" from Tristan and Islode), Moszkowski ("Isoldens Tad" from Tristan ... and "Der Venusberg" from Tannhauser) and Brassin ("Der Ritt der Walkuren," "Feuerzauber" and "Sigmunds Liebesgesang" from Der Ring des Nibelungen), Ms. Okashiro infuses these pieces with all the passion and expression that Wagner must have had in mind when he wrote them.

Despite the fact that this recording is of solo piano, one can almost close one's eyes and see the action on the stage. Ms. Okashiro uses all of the piano's expressiveness, power and delicacy to bring these pieces to life.

For example, "Isoldens Tod" ("Isolde's Death") may very well be one of, if not the, most well-known pieces in the Wagnerian opus. Ms. Okashiro's playing of the Moskowski transcription neither eviscerates the piece nor over-embellishes it. It’s obvious that she understands the work completely. But her familiarity with Wagner is only one of this disc's qualities that commands our attention. The other is the sound.

It’s as if we’re standing (that’s right, standing, not sitting) right behind Ms. Okashiro as she is performing these pieces. You can almost see her fingers fly across the keyboard. The percussiveness of the piano (a Hamburg Steinway D 0160) is startlingly alive. This should come as no real surprise, as this is another of Pro Piano’s 24-bit PPR (Pianist Perspective Recordings) discs -- and that’s exactly what the sound is like. This is a wonderful recording. What keeps it from being a perfect recording is the lack of ambience, plus a touch of that old digital bug-a-boo, dryness.

Nonetheless, both musically and sonically, this is a disc that can hold its own in the exalted company of original recordings of full orchestral versions of the pieces. Pro Piano and Chitose Okashiro have created a winner here.