Liaisons Vol. 3
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Sonata in D minor, Wq 69 (H53) [18:06]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
5 Waltzes, Op. 3 (1925, rev, 1969) [10:10]
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH
Fantasia in D major, Wq 117/14 (1762) Allegro [1:45]
La Böhmer (Murky), Wq 117/26 (1754) Prestissimo [2:58]
Holiday Diary, Op. 5 (1934) [17:22]
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH
Sonata in E flat major, Wq 65/42 (H189) (1765) [11:27]
Night-Piece (1963) Lento tranquillo [6:05]
Dejan Lazic (piano)
rec. September 2008, Muziekgebouw Frits Philips, Eindhoven, The
CHANNEL CLASSICS CCS SA 28511
New releases from this Dutch-based label are always worth waiting
for. Most recently one of harpist Lavinia Meijer’s discs made
my list of picks for 2010 – review
– and since then I’ve been won over by Channel’s reissue of
the Dvorák Slavonic Dances, from Iván Fischer and his
Budapest Festival band (review).
The driving force behind these recordings is Jared Sacks, who
seems to have a knack for combining the right repertoire with
the right performers. The highly regarded Fischer project is
evidence of that and, I suspect, this Liasions series with Croatian
pianist Dejan Lazic will do equally well.
That said, a large part of Channel’s reputation rests on the
substantial crossbeam of superior sonics, their Super Audio
discs among the most sought after in the catalogue. The three
Meijer recordings certainly belong in that category, a fine
complement to good programming and first-rate artistry. Lazic
is new to me, but I’m aware the earlier discs in this series
– pairing Scarlatti/Bartók and Brahms/Schumann – have had good
notices. And in line with the overarching theme, Lazic now seeks
to ‘connect’ the music of C.P.E. Bach and Benjamin Britten;
an intriguing prospect.
The Bach D minor sonata trips off the keyboard with disarming
ease, combining poise and precision. Indeed, articulation is
the hallmark of this collection, and there’s no doubting Lazic’s
technical prowess; every phrase is beautifully fashioned, each
voice granted a hearing. The Andante is especially elegant,
the trills tastefully done, but for all its charm there are
moments when Lazic’ is self-conscious, dynamic contrasts too
deliberate and, in the Allegretto, a giddying surge and retreat
that’s not to my tastes. Just listen to Danny Driver in this
repertoire (Hyperion CDA67786) and one hears the same clarity,
but without the expressive excess.
The D major Fantasia is similarly afflicted, Lazic
cultivating a bold, rather Romantic sound that’s undoubtedly
arresting, if not entirely apt. Sonically, this SACD is well
up to the standards of the house; the RBCD layer is very revealing
too, especially in the mercurial La Böhmer. Listening
to the latter it seems almost churlish to criticise, for this
is a pianist of formidable talent, but then his E flat major
sonata brings out those attention-seeking qualities once more.
A pity, as in the mIdst of all these distractions there’s playing
of rare concentration and finesse, notably in the sustained
loveliness of the Adagio assai.
The Britten works, from the early Waltzes to the later
Night-Piece, are much more successful, the restive,
roaming energy of the latter in marked contrast to the contained
form and brilliance of the E flat major sonata that precedes
it. Initially I was a bit puzzled at the alternation of composers
here, but it soon becomes clear that the juxtaposition is deliberate.
Indeed, Britten’s precocious little waltzes (revised in 1969)
sit very comfortably alongside the Bach D minor sonata, the
second waltz – ‘Quick, with wit’ – a miracle of touch and temperament.
Add to that the delicious, harp-like swirls of ‘Dramatic’ and
this really is pianism of a high order, beautifully caught by
Sacks and his team.
Speaking of precocity, the bright angularity of Britten’s Holiday
Diary is incredibly assured for an Op. 5. Lazic brings
splendid breadth and attack to the shiversome notes of ‘Early
Morning Bathe’, the piano’s lower, resonating registers caught
with fidelity and strength. ‘Sailing’ is a lovely little Andante,
exquisitely formed and executed, ‘Fun-Fair’ a heady mix of sea-side
sights and sounds. Lazic has a commanding style here that’s
most impressive, giving the impression that he’s much more at
ease in this multi-layered music than he is in the Bach; just
sample his rendition of Britten’s nocturnal coda, rendered so
tactile in the manner of Hopkins’ ‘fell of night’.
The Bach/Britten pairing is a useful one, and it does throw
up some interesting similarities and contrasts, but the real
pleasure resides in Lazic’s magical readings of the Britten
pieces. Indeed, as so often with this composer, one is left
quietly astounded by his originality and range. So, despite
misgivings about the Bach and the booklet’s overweening promotion
of Mr Lazic – complete with tricksy, light-filled visuals and
typographical cleverness – I’m sorely tempted to seek out his
An intriguing get-together, made worthwhile by some fine Britten.