Now Would All Freudians Please Stand Aside
CD 1
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major, BWV564 (1710) arr. Ferruccio BUSONI (1866-1924) [19:38]
Partita No.6 in E minor, BWV830 (c.1726) [30:51]
Concerto No.3 in D minor – adagio, BWV974 after Alessandro MARCELLO (1689-1747) [4:54]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1828)
Piano Sonata No.30 in E major Op.109 [21:51]
CD 2
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Prelude in E minor Op.28 No.4 [2:41]
Etude in C minor Op.25 No.12 [2:40]
Interviews with James Rhodes [16:06]
Video – live at the Roundhouse performing the Bach/Marcello Adagio [5:07]
James Rhodes (piano)
rec. November 2009, Potton Hall. Video footage, 13 May 2009, live at the Roundhouse
CD 2 is an enhanced CD for PC/Mac. Requires Quicktime 7 or later to view the video.
ABC CLASSICS 476 4593 [77:09 + 21:17 + DVD 5:07]

I would ignore the rock star title of this disc and hunker down with the music. Or, if you prefer, assimilate the title as part of James Rhodes’s life story, and still hunker down with the music. The performances reveal the inner man, and these performances are seldom less than impressive in their own way.

His Bach/Busoni Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major builds to its climax with inexorable logic, and considerable digital control. Rhodes’s appreciation and understanding of Bach is a constant as is his, I suspect, more selective reverence for Beethoven, whose music he also plays with genuine insights, sometimes taken to a personalised degree, or length. This is the case in Op.109, where expression is correlated to time spent. But the cumulative weight does build, once again, and this time to the special revelation of the disturbingly intense end to the sonata’s first movement. His Prestissimo second movement is vitalising and excellent, and if I find parts of the finale a touch italicised, just a little point-making in places, his articulation remains outstanding.

Unhyphenated Bach comes in the shape of the Sixth Partita, in E minor. Once more the approach is rapt, personal, articulate and convincing in breadth. He takes the Sarabande at a daringly slow tempo, and this a noticeable feature of all the performances of the suites and partitas that I have heard him give – the need to give time and horizontal space to such slow movements. The quicker ones are not necessarily correspondingly quicker, as if to compensate, but unfold at their own natural pace, albeit still subject to occasional quirks of emphasis or rhythm or articulation. He finishes the first disc with a warmly textured Bach/Marcello Adagio, although he can’t shake my allegiance to Earl Wild here.

The second disc is short, only 27 minutes. There are only two works, both by Chopin and both adeptly performed, but they only occupy five or so minutes. The remainder is taken up by interviews with Rhodes, in which he talks and occasionally plays to illustrate a point. The disc cover carries a Warning – described as ‘Moderate impact course language and/or themes.’ That must be like The Art of Course Fishing, then. Fans of fonts, misspellings and associated matters might like to note that the qualifier ‘moderate’ is in capitals and bold font which paradoxically makes it seem as if it’s worse than a couple of F words. Rhodes is disarmingly sincere – full of humility and humanity. This disc also has a brief video component - a performance of the Bach/Marcello live at the Roundhouse, which requires Quicktime 7 or later to view.

Rhodes’ own biography makes for compelling reading but it’s his musicianship, partly informed by those vicissitudes, that makes him so interesting a musician.

Jonathan Woolf

Rhodes’ musicianship partly informed by life’s vicissitudes, makes him such an interesting musician.