> Yoko Kikuchi - piano recital [CT]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Some items
to consider

in the first division

extraordinary by any standards

An excellent disc

a new benchmark

summation of a lifetime’s experience.

Piano Concertos 1 and 2
Surprise Best Seller and now

A Garland for John McCabe


DIETHELM Symphonies

The best Rite of Spring in Years

BACH Magnificat

Brian Symphs 8, 21, 26

Just enjoy it!

La Mer Ticciati










Serge RACHMANINOV (1873-1943
Prélude Op. 3 No. 2
Prélude Op. 32 No. 12
Prélude Op. 23 No. 2

Serge PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Prélude Op. 12 No. 7
Frederic CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Prélude in C sharp minor Op. 45
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Nine Préludes Op.1
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Prélude (1913)
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Ce qu’a vu le vent d’Ouest (Book 1 No.7) (1910)_
La fille aux cheveux de lin (Book 1 No.8) (1910)
Les fées sont d’exquises danseuses (Book 2 No.4 (1912)
Frank MARTIN (1890-1974)
Eight Préludes pour le piano (1948)
Erik SATIE (1866-1925)
Véritables Préludes Flasques (pour un chien) (1912)
Yoko Kikuchi-piano
Recorded in the Brussels Royal Conservatory, November 1995 DDD


Experience Classicsonline

At a little over seventy-one minutes in length this is a generously filled disc although I have to say straight away that the quality of performance is somewhat variable. There is one work in particular that makes the disc worthwhile, namely the Eight Preludes of Frank Martin. Written in 1948 for Dinu Lipatti, who due to poor health was never able to play them, each of these pieces is a gem, challenging yet highly idiomatic and immediately recognisable as the work of Martin. It struck me very clearly whilst listening to this work that the ghost of Bach (one of the composer’s self confessed heroes) is rarely far away, notably in Martin’s wonderfully assured use of counterpoint, yet his highly personal melodic and harmonic language always shines through with intensity (sample one - track twenty). Kikuchi gives a secure, technically robust performance, finely capturing the, by turns, haunting, profound, sometimes even whimsical nature of each prelude. The final prelude, marked Vivace, with its echoes of the Petite Symphonie Concertante of three years earlier, forms a particularly satisfying, finely played conclusion to the work (sample two - track twenty six).

In many ways it is a shame that the only other complete work on the disc is Szymanowski’s Opus One set of Nine Preludes, for other than the Martin this interesting and impressively assured early work undoubtedly draws the finest playing from Kikuchi. There is sensitivity on display here that does not always surface in the other works on the disc. As an example the sixth prelude (sample three - track eleven), marked lento mesto, is beautifully realised whereas Debussy’s The Girl with the Flaxen Hair (sample three - track seventeen) is somewhat emotionally detached in comparison. By the same token it may have been a mistake to open the disc with Rachmaninov’s famous Prelude in C sharp minor, for anyone who is used to this work in a performance by an acknowledged master is likely to find this performance sterile and lacking in depth, as I did.

Elsewhere on the disc Prokofiev’s Opus 12 No. 7 Prélude receives an adequate performance as do Satie’s typically eccentric Three Flaccid Preludes (for a dog). The Chopin and Debussy come off less successfully, ultimately lacking strength of character as well as the optimum degree of refinement in the playing.

I suspect that Kikuchi’s talents would have been better served if this disc had been made up of three major works rather than the collection of "fillers" that we have been given. Certainly the Martin and Szymanowski offer much to enjoy although the lingering impression is that Kikuchi fails to get "inside" the other works in the same way.

Pavane’s recorded sound is adequate with a good dynamic range although the booklet notes are disappointing both in content and translation.

Christopher Thomas.


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