Antoine Rebstein lost the use of his right hand for reasons
unexplained in the booklet. Whether he is able to use it minimally
in daily life we aren't told but it has, of course, involved a
complete and catastrophic change of direction. He's now studying
Art History at the University of Salzburg as well as continuing his
pianistic career by exploring the repertoire written for left hand.
He also has set his sights on a conducting career whilst keeping up
his piano work.
One of the results of his loss is this disc, a wide-ranging corpus
of work of considerable demands, ones that have clearly involved
Rebstein in new approaches to the placement of the fingers
(especially the use of the thumb) and to posture at the keyboard.
That he has made this disc so soon after his illness is certainly a
testimony to his tenacity and drive.
It's also a most diverting programme on its own terms. The
Bach-Brahms will be new to most people who are well versed in their
Bach-Busoni. It has considerable amplitude, given the necessary
imitations, and was written by Brahms for his own enjoyment -
though when he sent it to Clara Schumann she received it in June
1877 having suffered debilitating tendonitis in her right had, a
fact of which Brahms was quite unaware. The Saint-Saëns
Studies are a delight. Rhythmically and spatially he allows the
pianist enough time to get around - the studies were written for
Caroline de Serres who had lost the use of her hand. Especially
delightful are the navigation of the arpeggios in the First and the
Baroque filigree of the second and the Schumannesque Elegie, very
much the longest movement of the six.
Lipatti's Sonatina was written in 1941 and it's a compact
nine-minute three-movement work "on Romanian themes." Lipatti wrote
it for the left hand for purely practical reasons - there was a
lack of music paper and he could only write on one stave; so he
did. It's deft, folkloric and occasionally Bartókian.
Scriabin contributes two youthful works; a Prelude, quite light and
airy and a Chopin-and-Field-influenced Nocturne with strong
atmospheric allure. Schulhoff's Suite dates from 1926 and it looks
to the French Impressionists for its essential mood; rather
traditional sounding for Schulhoff, there's also some folk
influence in the Zingara and moments of elusive
improvisational-sounding freedom in the penultimate movement (which
is actually marked Improvisazione). To finish there's the
Strauss-Godowsky, a veritable K2 of a piece, the first performance
of which was turned down by the prickly Paul Wittgenstein. Simon
Barere premiered it instead; not a bad substitute all things
The sound is not entirely sympathetic, being rather harsh and
recessive. It does on occasion blunt attacks but not too much
should be made of this. This is, dare one say it, a courageous disc
from a talented musician and the repertoire will be little known to
most - always, in my book, a point in a disc's favour.
See also January 2006 review by Dominy Clements