IBERIA

...hear how profoundly beautifully Schaaf plays them...(his) engagement with the music’s depths is total and heartening. Three-and-a-half stars (out of four).

...this is an exceptionally fine Iberia performance, drawing listeners in through Schaaf’s sheer intensity and the dedication that he so clearly brings to each of the 12 pieces...Schaaf’s Iberia is a very considerable achievement, delightful to hear and played with enthusiasm that is absolutely infectious.

...bracing rhythms, crystalline textures, pungent harmonic details... This impressive new recording of Albéniz’s valedictory masterpiece (is) an accomplishment which Schaaf can take immense credit for.

...Schaaf’s Iberia is highly evocative and belies a deep familiarity with the music. Captured by engineer Ryan Streber, the sound is pretty much ideal. It's as close-up as you'd want, percussive without inside-the-piano claustrophobia, but still possesses an excellent sense of the instrument’s mass. Truly among the best-sounding piano recordings I’ve ever heard.

The 12 sections of Iberia are among the most fearsome in the repertoire, and Schaaf acquits himself with distinction. In this immensely challenging panorama of Spanish scenes, he finds poetry and shows that Albéniz's quiet moments can pack the same kind of wallop as those which set the keyboard ablaze. From the opening, a moving account of Evocación, he shows unflagging energy and empathy for the score...Schaaf’s facility and affinity for the composer’s colors and evocative rhythms will make many sit up and take notice.

A most welcome attempt at one of the mountains of the literature. This reading is classical, virtuosic...unencumbered and very fresh...a valid and quite successful take on a piece that discourages most comers—Schaaf was not afraid to tackle the lion.

I have in my collection a wonderful recording of Albéniz’s Iberia by pianist Peter Schaaf.

44 WALTZES

(the Dvořák waltzes are) meditative, mercurial vignettes rendered with an unassuming poet’s touch. It was my special pleasure to spotlight your work and your ethos as an artist who wants above all to share the music. A lovely recording. I look forward to further exploration.

A CD cleverly titled 44 Waltzes on 88 Keys gives pianist Peter Schaaf the unusual opportunity to present a fascinating overview of the waltz from the early 19th century to the early 20th. The 12-waltz Schubert set sparkles: Schaaf’s delicate touch fits them wonderfully. The 16 Brahms waltzes have plenty of lilt and rhythmic panache. Schaaf plays the more difficult of the two solo versions that Brahms made, but no strain is evident in his performance: everything flows smoothly, and the contrasts among the works come through especially well. The real find on this disc is the eight-waltz group by Dvořák. These are substantial works filled with mood and tempo contrasts and containing distinct Slavonic elements. Schaaf’s warmly knowing performance argues strongly that these pieces deserve more-frequent hearing. Schaaf plays the Ravel with as much skill and understanding as he brings to the other waltz sequences. Given Schaaf’s exemplary pianism, it is possible just to sit back and enjoy the entire disc.

Peter Schaaf finds in these (Dvořák) waltzes “warmth and humor,” and he plays them with persuasive affection. The glossy patina of the (Ravel) music ebbs and flows, the “wrong” notes biting gently at the ear with a sweet irony. The E Major of this group bears an aristocratic insouciance, ironically lyrical and touching. Both the Schubert and Brahms sets of waltzes roll easily off the keyboard, fluent and eminently stylistic. I found Schaaf’s rendition of the two E Major and g-sharp minor waltzes particularly affecting, and I look forward to more keyboard repertory in the hands of Mr. Schaaf.