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February 17 , 2012

Reviews of the Week

Further pressreactions about Carolin Widmann’s and Alexander Lonquich’s Schubert recording

The dominant work is the C major fantasy D934, one of the less familiar of Schubert’s late masterpieces but just as extraordinary a single-movement telescoping of musical form as the more celebrated Wanderer Fantasy for piano. The heart of the work [C major Fantasy D934] is its central set of variations, but it’s the slow introduction, which is recapitulated as the fourth of the fifth sections, that casts shadow across the entire work. The disc is worth hearing just for the way in which Widmann colours that opening alone, reducing her tone to the slenderest thread, minimising her vibrato and gradually breathing life into the work. It’s extraordinary playing, full of imagination and profound intelligence, and just as powerfully effective in the smaller scale works, in the earlier A major Sonata D574 and the Rondo in B minor D895.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian

Das seltsame Werk [h-moll Rondo] beginnt doppeldeutig formelhaft, wie eine majestätische französische Ouvertüre, der man den glühenden Kern entfernt und den wärmenden Mantel genommen hat. Die Geige weiß nicht zu wem sie singen soll, das Klavier liefert ziellose Akkorde mit scharfen Punktierungen, einmal lächelt die Violine zur fernen Tonart F-Dur hinüber, um sich gleich wieder nach h-moll zurückzukrümmen. So klingt verletzliche, fragile, sich vor Beschädigung fürchtende Musik. Erregt warten wir auf Erlösung, doch lange Zeit kommt sie nicht. Zwar gibt es diese rustikale H-Dur-Passage mit den wippenden, schunkelnden Bässen, gibt es rappelnde Tonwiederholungen, doch großer Strom hört sich irgendwie anders an. Schubert macht indes das Fragmentierte zu wundervoller Kunst – und wie Widmann und Lonquich diese Idee weiterverfolgen ist die eigentliche Sensation. Beide Musiker nähern sich diesem tönenden Flüchtlingsdrama wie Sanitäter, sie bergen heimatlose Melodiefetzen im Quarantäne-Zelt, in das frische, fröhliche Luft erst am Ende, nach der Gesundung, dringt.
Wolfram Goertz, Die Zeit

Dénes Várjon’s Precipitando in The Sunday Herald

I feel as though I have been waiting for this disc for 40 years. In that time I have accumulated countless version of Liszt’s B minor Piano Sonata, one of the greatest musical creations of the 19th century. […]Dénes Várjon, the Hungarian pianist, has produced an extraordinary version that is imperative for devotees of the piece. He has all the power, passion, poetry and steely virtuosity you would expect but it’s the thinking that does it. Várjon introduces huge points of articulation in the structure. He is unafraid to open vast spaces between paragraphs and sections. The technique expands the epic proportions of the sonata but, crucially, doesn’t slow it down or interrupt the flow. This is a monumental version of the masterpiece.
Michael Tumelty, Sunday Herald

The Guardian about Tord Gustavsen’s Quartet The Well

When the popular Norwegian jazz pianist Tord Gustavsen expanded his regular trio to a quartet, adding atmospheric saxophonist Tore Brunborg for the album Restored Returned, he found his perfect band. The Well takes that group’s development into more structurally intricate territory by Gustavsens’s standards, but his signature ingredients of low key gospel playing, acres of open space, memorable melodies and a glistening delicacy of touch are all present. A more urgent feel is quickly apparent when the opener’s church-music solemnity is followed by a snare-drum tattoo and the pianist’s rolls and swerves on the sinewy Playing. […] The delicious Circling sounds like a slow Keith Jarrett, and the shifting harmonies of the title track reflect Gustavsen’s investigation of a slightly busier musical work. The evolving story of this group remains pretty irresistible.
John Fordham, The Guardian

The Eight Great Suites by Lisa Smirnova in Gramophone

This is a truly delightful couple of discs from the Russo-Austrian Lisa Smirnova. She plays the Suites in an order of her own, starting with the fussily ornamented Adagio of Suite No 2. The piano is not as intimately placed as one might expect […] but the ear soon adjusts – gratefully, for the sound picture not only allows the illusion of a harpsichord when appropriate (try the Prelude to Suite No 1) but serves the clarity of rapid passagework extremely well (Suite No 3’s concluding Presto, for instance). Smirnova’s limpid touch and lucid tone are perfect partners for Handel and, with an excellent booklet, one can only look forward to Vol 2 with the 1727 collection in due course.
Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone