This CD has music from the great keyboard players of the Baroque/Classical
eras; albeit Mozart is only represented by one piece. François-René
Duchable is out to show his skills in some challenging, and well
known, music; as well as his skills as an arranger of organ music
for the piano. The two ‘meaty’ pieces are the Beethoven piano
sonatas which have been recorded by all the ‘greats’ of the piano
The Bach ‘Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ’
is a good arrangement and is nicely played but the piano shows
the first problem I have with this particular instrument – a
very ‘woolly’, muffled sounding bass.
The first of the Beethoven sonatas is the Pathétique.
The opening Grave seems to me to lack any poetry in the
playing and the ensuing Allegro is rushed. I compared
it with my favourite pianist in this piece – Wilhelm Kempff
– who has much feeling in the opening and takes the Allegro
at a steadier pace which allows him to make more of the dynamic
markings. Duchable gives us the first movement repeat which
Kempff sadly does not. In the Adagio cantabile Duchable
is slower than Kempff but the latter has a much more cantabile
(singing) quality about his playing. In the Rondo finale
Duchable is fast and sounds rushed, as if he is out to show
his technique rather than make something fulfilling of the music.
The Bach Sicilienne from a Flute Sonata is
a good arrangement but sounds bland without the contrast of
the flute sound against the piano.
The three Scarlatti sonatas are short but a real challenge
to the technique of any keyboard player. I think they are meant
to allow the player to show off, and this Duchable does with
relish. Scarlatti spent time in Spain and I feel that these
works may have been influenced by the sounds of the guitar.
The Mozart Fantasie in D minor is a pot-pourri
of different styles. It needs a capable pianist to achieve a
cohesive, satisfying whole, which Duchable does well.
The next Bach piece is just the Adagio section
from the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue for organ in A minor;
a wise choice to arrange just this section as the other two
parts would not, I think, sound well on the piano. It is again
a good arrangement, but I personally miss the plodding pedal
bass from the organ.
Beethoven’s bagatelle ‘Fur Elise’ is
The ‘Moonlight’ sonata first movement
suffers from being too loud in comparison with the early recording
of Alfred Brendel which is subdued and altogether more peaceful
… and incidentally, faster than Duchable. The Allegretto
second movement is faster than either Brendel or Kempff
and so sounds perfunctory. The finale is just rushed, almost
frantic, as if the player’s technique was being pushed to the
very limit. It seems that selecting the right tempo can make
a great deal of difference in Beethoven.
The final Bach item ‘Jesu Bleibet Meine Freunde’
(‘Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring’ in English) is a good arrangement
and a steady performance.
I touched on a problem with the instrument used in
this recording at the start. As the disc progressed it was apparent
that as well as the ‘woolly’-sounding bass, the middle register
is what I can only describe as ‘twangy’ and some notes (particularly
the middle C and the D a ninth above it) have a very unpleasant
metallic ring to them. It is almost as if the piano hadn’t been
‘voiced’ properly by the tuner.
However, I enjoyed the Bach arrangements and the virtuosity
of the Scarlatti, but if you want fine performances of the Beethoven
sonatas, look elsewhere.
1. Choral ‘Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ’ BWV 639
2. Piano Sonata No 8 (Pathetique) Grave – Allegro di molto
e con brio
3. Piano Sonata No 8 (Pathetique) Adagio cantabile
4. Piano Sonata No 8 (Pathetique) Rondo allegro
5. Sicilienne from Flute Sonata BWV 1031
6. Sonata in D minor Kk 141
7. Sonata in C major Kk 132
8. Sonata in G major Kk 13
9. Fantasie in D minor K 397
10. Adagio from the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue for Organ
in A minor BWV 564
11. ‘Fur Elise’
12. Piano Sonata No. 14 ‘Moonlight’ Adagio sostenuto
13. Piano Sonata No. 14 ‘Moonlight’ Allegretto
14. Piano Sonata No. 14 ‘Moonlight’ Presto
15. Choral ‘Jesu Bleibet Meine Freunde’ BWV 147