Albéniz, "Iberia: Books I, II, III and IV" performed by pianist Peter Schaaf (Victor Elmaleh Collection). There's an extraordinary story here. Peter Schaaf was best known early on as an accompanist (for Yo-Yo Ma, among others) and chamber musician who, for 25 years, has been only a photographer who specializes in pictures of classical musicians. But 40 years ago, he was a student of Rosina Lhévinne at the Juilliard School where, he now says, he "fell in love" with Albéniz’ "Iberia." And if it weren't interesting enough already that Schaaf, after not recording for 25 years, recorded a whole disc of them in "a wish to master them all, the way other people wish to win the lottery," Albéniz, the notes remind us, was hugely admired by composers as disparate as Olivier Messiaen and Percy Grainger. Anyone, then, thinking of this as pleasant travelogue music with a cousinly relationship to Debussy's and Ravel's impressionism, needs to hear how profoundly beautifully Schaaf plays them in his maturity. If you're looking for the cold perfectionism of the touring virtuoso, forget it. There are occasional finger slips here but its engagement with the music's depths is total and heartening.

Three and a half stars (out of four).
JEFF SIMON, Buffalo News
December 25, 2011