The quoted blurb seems faintly desperate in trying to get buyers to consider this "fun music" and an "exuberant program." They should simply have pointed out that this strange program includes a bit from Star Wars. DG bypassed the first-place winner of the last Warsaw Chopin competition to sign up Ingolf Wunder, who is 27, Austrian, and tied for second (no relation to Stevie Wonder). As the title "300" suggests, Wunder's playing spans three centuries, from Scarlatti to John williams - I wasn't kidding about Star Wars - and at times the pieces, like Scarlatti's K. 33 sonata, are a bit closer to sobriety than fun.
Even though the whole thing is like a traveling salesman opening his sample case on the front stoop, I'm not going to be sour or even critical. It's an honorable tradition for new virtuosos before the public to dazzle us, and Wunder has included a few chestnuts like flight of the bumblebee as well as a gauntlet or two thrown down, as in Volodos's spectacular transcription of Mozart's Rondo alla Turca, which appears on one of Volodos's albums as an encore. It's also not out of place to vary the mood with soft moonlight, a la Clair de lune and the Chopin Berceuse. The program proceeds in chronological order, which gives us the flavor of keyboard stylisitcs as they changed - radically - from Scarlatti onward.
In the early music, from Scarlatti and Mozart up to Chopin, Wunder's musical personality is serious, even a bit somber. He's at pains not to sound frivolous. The Liszt selection, Csardas macabre S. 224, is a rarely heard alternative, in mood at least, to the familiar Mephisto Waltz. Wunder is serious about this, too, but for the first time I think he catches fire - somewhat. Comparison with flashier players like Lang Lang, Lise de la Salle, and Yuja Wang reveals more flair on their part, less the professor at the keyboard. But Wunder proves that he can turn on a dime form Liszt's style to Debussy's in Clair de lune, and he's at ease in Flight of the Bumblebee, showing sufficient chops without a doubt.
I won't detail the rest of the program except to say that "fun music" isn't often played this soberly. I think Wunder may turn out to be solid, maybe stolid, along the lines of the conductor Christian Thielemann - it seems to be an orientation that Germans prefer right now.
Here's the complete program:
Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57
Clair de Lune (from Suite Bergamasque)
Valse Fantaisie, Op. 49
Csárdás macabre, S. 224
Étincelles, Op. 36 No. 6
Piano Sonata No. 13 in B flat major, K333
Rondo alla Turca from Piano Sonata No. 11, K331
arranged by Arcadi Volodos
Prelude Op. 23 No. 5 in G minor
Flight of the Bumble Bee
Keyboard Sonata K33 in D Major
Étude Op. 8 No. 12 in D sharp minor
Star Wars: Main Theme