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Chaconne from the Partita No.2 for solo violin arranged in 1877 by Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) [15.08]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Six Studies Op.135 (1912) [19.27]
Dinu LIPATTI (1917-1950)
Sonatina (1941) [9.12]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Prelude in C sharp minor Op.9 No.1 (1894-95) [2.33]
Nocturne in D flat major Op.9 No.2 (1894-95) [5.36]
Erwin SCHULHOFF (1894-1942)
Suite No.3 (1926) [14.55]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)/Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)
Symphonic Metamorphoses of the Schatz-Waltzer Themes from The Gypsy Baron (1885) arranged by Godowsky in (? 1928)[11.23]
Antoine Rebstein (piano, left hand)
rec. La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, Salle de Musique, May 2005. DDD
CLAVES 50-2502 [79.09]

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 considered.

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.

Jonathan Woolf

See also January 2006 review by Dominy Clements

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