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Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)
Fantasies – G minor, Op. 123 (1834) [12'16]; E flat, Op. 18 (1805) [23'24]; 'Recollections of Paganini' (1832) [9'48]. Rondo quasi una Fantasia, in E, Op. 19 (1806) [8'24]. Bagatelles, Op. 107 (publ. 1826) – No. 11 in A flat, 'La contemplazione' [9'01]
Madoka Inui (piano)
rec. Studio 3, ORF Funkhaus, Vienna, 26-28 July 2005. DDD
NAXOS 8.557836 [68'38]

Naxos's indefatigable investigations into corners of the repertoire is, of course, to be applauded. Yet music that is, to be completely frank, not of the very first rate, needs, more than anything else, an interpreter who can fight the composer's cause as if for life itself, not to mention someone who possesses a technique of the very highest order.
Madoka Inui - see her superbly produced website ( impressed me with her accompaniments on the Naxos disc, 'The Art of the Vienna Horn' (see review), so it is good to see her featured in her own right. She is clearly extremely musical. The only real criticism that surfaces from time to time is a certain literalness. Perhaps this is Inui trying not to over-emote - a trap that must be easy to fall into in music like this - and moving too far to the opposite end of the spectrum. It is a trait that manifests most obviously in the Fantasie, Op. 18, and it is this very literalism that robs the 'Allegro con fuoco' of its 'fuoco'. At 6'35 she could sparkle - the music begs it - and she fails to. The Larghetto e cantabile section of this Fantasie is like a Chopin Nocturne in its filigree, yet Inui misses the requisite note of fantasy – and nothing in the finale ('Presto') will set your pulse racing.
The G minor Fantasie, Op. 123 boasts movements inspired - although one has to be careful with word-choice here! - by the poet Barry Cornwall (1787-1874). If the 'Hunter's Song' (second movement) is nice and robust, the fourth movement, entitled 'The Bloodhound' fails in its remit whichever way one looks at it. 'Sweet' is not really a word one would associate with these creatures, and even if the idea is that the movement is in praise of a man's last friend after his Romantic roaming, there is no hint of anything remotely either canine nor valedictory. But sweetness, yes, lots of it.
'Sweet' is a word that crops up again for the Rondo, Op. 19 ('quasi una fantasia'), although Inui seems to have developed a habit of punching chords for this work. The work entitled 'La contemplazione' offers nice contrast, imbued as it is with a quasi-Schubertian sense of resignation. This is the best item on the disc, with plenty of tendresse in evidence.
The final two items are almost in the spirit of encores. Inui clearly enjoys the Paganini recollections; 'Campanella' will probably be the clearest memory for most. The 'Fantasina' (great word) on Mozart's 'Non più andrai' is a light bit of fluff to end with. And great fun it is, too.
A mixed reception, then. Madoka Inui is a pianist who promises much, and her career will certainly be worth tracking. Her solid technique is certainly admirable on its own merits, but when she can in effect forget her own technique and really give herself to the music she elects to champion, then we shall hear what she really can do ...
Colin Clarke

see also review by Patrick C Waller


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