This release marks another disc in the lengthening series of Kuhlau’s
compositions on Naxos.
Kuhlau, born in 1786
to a musician with the German Army, began his musical education
in Lüneburg with piano, and also began to compose at that time.
Around 1800 he studied with C. F. G. Schwenke, the man who succeeded
C. P. E. Bach in the position as Hamburg Stadtkantor. By 1804,
Kuhlau was in the process of launching his career as a pianist
in earnest. Blind in one eye since childhood, Kuhlau fled to
Copenhagen under an alias to avoid mandatory military service;
his half-blindness evidently did not compel the authorities
to exempt him. He eventually became a naturalised citizen of
Denmark and established his base there for the rest of his life.
Known to this reviewer
primarily for his compositions for flute — various discs have
been released recently of his flute
sonatas and trios
on Naxos and other labels. Kuhlau also produced a number of other
pieces, primarily for chamber ensembles.
The works on offer
on the present disc are short and charming, with most movements
lasting no longer than three minutes. Jandó does right, I think,
in keeping the performances simple and straightforward. The
object of these pieces is not to impress or give a listener
a good deal of food for thought. These are meant primarily to
entertain. They are likely to be familiar to piano students
worldwide. There isn’t much here that would surprise the listener,
but there are a few moments of particular interest, such as
the unexpected similarity of the opening movement of the Sonatina
in A minor, Op. 88 No. 3 to Beethoven’s 1810 Für Elise.
Another standout is the opening Allegro maestoso of the
Op. 55 No. 6 Sonatina in C which, with its length of just over
seven minutes, allows for a bit more mulling over of its thematic
The recording aesthetic
for this disc is just what one would expect from Naxos: warm
ambience without losing presence or definition. Jandó gives
these pieces a clean and clear performance. Quite a pleasant
disc for casual listening.