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Friedrich KUHLAU (1786-1832)
Sonatinas for piano Op. 55
No. 1 in C; No. 2 in G; No. 3 in C; No. 4 in F; No. 5 in D; No. 6 in C
Sonatinas for piano Op. 88
No. 1 in C; No. 2 in G; No. 3 in A minor; No. 4 in F
Jenő Jandó (piano)
rec. 21-24 March 2007 Phoenix Studio, Diósd, Hungary
NAXOS 8.570710 [65:09] 

Experience Classicsonline

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 material. 

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.

David Blomenberg


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