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Anton BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Piano Works:-

Sonata Movement in G minor (1862)
Stille Betrachtung an einem Herbstabend (1863)
Steiermärker (c.1850)
Lancier-Quadrille (c.1850)
Klavierstücke in E flat major (c.1856)
Fantasie in G major (1868)
Erinnerung (1868)
Adagio from Symphony No. 7, arr. Cyrill Hynais (c. 1895)
Fumiko Shiraga (piano)
Rec 18-20 July 2001, Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg
BIS-CD-1297 [64.50]


A CD containing Bruckner’s music for piano may come as something of a surprise, since you either need to know a lot about Bruckner, or conversely very little, to expect such a thing. Yet here it is, and very interesting it is too. Fumiko Shiraga plays very well, and her performances can be described as dedicated and thoroughly prepared. In addition the BIS recorded sound is as good as we have come to expect from this reliable company: full toned and atmospheric, with due attention to detail.

What is just a little disappointing, however, is the documentation, which after all is an important matter when it comes to uncovering little known music. Anyone picking up the CD in a shop and glancing at its contents would think that all the music was piano music by Bruckner. Alas it is not. Some half of the programme (nearly 27 minutes out of 65) is an arrangement by another hand of the slow movement from Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony. That ‘other hand’ was Cyrille Hynais, a member of the circle that also contained the Schalk brothers and Ferdinand Löwe. This information is only contained within the insert notes; it is neither in the listings on the outside of the case, nor in the booklet. An error of judgement, surely.

As far as it goes, the arrangement is interesting. The Adagio of the Seventh Symphony is among Bruckner’s greatest achievements, but it is orchestral music that demands a very particular and special sonority, even a very particular acoustic. And the sound of the piano is not that of the orchestra, nor does Bruckner’s orchestral music interchange with his orchestral music after the manner of Ravel. True, the Hynais version takes no liberties in the way that the Schalk four-hand version of the same music does; but it is not piano music by Bruckner and the disc details lead the unwary into thinking that it is.

The remaining items are a different matter in every respect. To begin with, they are by Bruckner. However, they are early rather than mature Bruckner, and in some cases very early Bruckner, sketched when the composer was in his mid-twenties. Of course it is always fascinating to encounter the apprentice compositions and other creative byways of great composers (has there been a greater symphonist than Bruckner?), and for that reason the music is worth hearing.

None of the piano pieces can be described a s masterpiece, however. Bruckner did not have the feel for the piano of a Chopin or a Liszt, and his textures rarely have the pianistic imagination to generate the utmost interest and sophistication. There are some sure rhythmic trends, however, and the dance-element that forms such an important part of the composer’s stylistic personality is present even in the earliest pieces collected here, such as the Lancier-Quadrille.

Then there are the reflective pieces: Stille Betrachtung an einem Herbstabend (Quiet Contemplation on an Autumn Evening) and Erinnerung (Reminiscence). The influence of Mendelssohn is palpable, but the development of the material, particularly the quasi-orchestral build-up in Erinnerung, is probably the most idiomatic music among all these pieces.

While this disc is hardly central to the repertory, it does offer some fascinating insights into the lesser known byways and the artistic development of this remarkable composer.

Terry Barfoot




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