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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Leyla Pinar, harpsichord
J S BACH
(1685-1750)

Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue BWV 903
Tatyos EFFENDI (1858-1913)

Saz Semaisi
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)

L’Enharmonique
C P E BACH (1714-1788)

Sonata in D Minor
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)

Sonata in B Minor Hob XV1/32
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)

Dance for Harpsichord
Jean FRANCAIX (1912-1997)

L’Insectarium
1.La Scolopendre
2.La Coccinelle
Ekrem Zeki UN (1910-1987)

Folk Dance
Cenan AKIN (b 1932)

Kuhelyan
Gottfried von EINEM (b 1918)

Capriccio Op 36 No 1
Cengiz TANC (b 1933)

Two small pieces
Ilhan USMANBAS (b 1921)

Three pieces in Twelve Tone
Dominique LAWALREE (b 1954)

Harpsinotes
Leyla Pinar, harpsichord
No recording location or dates provided
PAVANE ADW 7225 [67.37]
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This is certainly a disc that gets round a bit. From Rameau, Bach and Bach fils through the classicism of Haydn we encounter, not as bizarrely as one might expect, the figure of Delius, before taking in a raft of twentieth century developments both traditional and more experimental. It’s an ear-opening journey expressly presented to show the harpsichord in its exposition of and response to changes in compositional style.

In the Chromatic fantasia and Fugue Pinar is certainly concerned with inflecting the chromaticisms with a degree of waywardness. By contrast her fugue is steady and she brings out voicings well with an even trill. Effendi’s piece is an example of monodic Turkish music and was arranged by Pinar herself. It is cimbalom-like with curiously inviting sonorities and with quite a contrast between hard and soft plucked strings. Her playing of Rameau’s L’Enharmonique is affectionate though it struck me as being rather slow movingly heavy for its thematic material and rather static lyrically. In CPE Bach’s three movement sonata we can hear again her robust musicality though, once again, one could certainly wish for a greater degree of plangency and flexibility in the Andante and a greater sense of horizontal depth as well, notwithstanding her more than useful control of dynamic gradients here. In the sumptuous variation finale we can appreciate the play of CPE Bach’s rather advanced left hand and with regard to Leyla Pinar’s playing, the degree of what Sorabji, writing of the harpsichordist Violet Gordon Woodhouse, called "quasi rubato." In Haydn’s sonata she is both skittish and emphatic – very emphatic chords! – and scurries with vigorous determination.

With the Delius we come to what is claimed as a world premiere recording. Actually it exists in a set played by none other than Ralph Kirkpatrick (Music & Arts CD 977) recorded live in 1961 – though maybe Pavane’s CD appeared subsequent to that Music & Arts release. Delius admired Violet Gordon Woodhouse and wrote the Dance for her, though alas she never recorded it. She did perform it once publicly, at the Grotrian Hall on 29 March 1927, her last professional engagement an event heard by Sorabji, who, enraptured, fired off a fan letter to her. The Danse has been called the piano’s revenge on the harpsichord – it’s true that without a sustaining pedal and with Delius’s slithery chromaticisms the harpsichordist has to work perspiringly hard to achieve a sense of momentum and line. The big stretches and arpeggios can’t help either and it’s not Pinar’s fault if the work remains a winsome and rather aimless one.

Much better to turn to Jean Francaix whose two little insect pieces from L’Insectarium are amongst the charming highlights of this recital. The Centipede – La Coccinelle – is a determined if slow moving beast whilst La Scolopendre, the Ladybird, is a witty, elegant and naughty one. I’ve never heard anything of Francaix’s that I didn’t like and that includes his piano playing - his was with Maurice Gendron an elite cello and piano duo every bit as good as Britten and Rostropovich. Ekrem Zeki Un studied composition with Dandelot and violin with Jacques Thibaud whilst studying in Paris. This is a Turkish dance of vigour with little hesitations – attractive with a very independent left hand. Pinar has herself transcribed Akin’s Kuheylan for harpsichord. Translated as the Pure-bred Arab Horse it’s fantastically motoric and unceasingly agitated – like the Flight of the Bumblebee without the tune. I’m not sure I hear any jazz in Gottfried von Einem’s Capriccio as the booklet notes suggest I do – sleeve note writers tend to write jazz when they mean syncopated or rhythmically interesting - but I do hear some spruce neo-classicism and real charm. I was taken by Tanc’s two little pieces - born in 1933 he is a serialist who exploits modal tetrachords. Whatever they are I like the two modest pieces played here, the first especially, elliptical, elusive, Webernian. Similarly Usmanbas’ Serial Pieces are quizzical, expressionist, complex and dense. Composed in 1970 the second is especially inviting; it has both a clarity and complexity that enhance its profile; heavily chordal and yet approachable. The third piece is pungent, reflective with "spaces" between the lines. Most intriguing and worth getting to know. Finally the youngest composer, Dominique Lawalree, a Belgian born in 1954, whose 1988 homage to Frank Zappa is a rising and falling motif, obsessive and single-minded and rather reminiscent of player pianos.

An enterprising recital, rather stronger on the twentieth than the eighteenth century, which explores some fascinating paths for modern harpsichord music.

Jonathan Woolf



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