The Great Pianist Composers Volumes 1-3
Volume 1
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Sonata No.2 in G minor [17:27]
Abegg Variations Op.1 [7:48]
Arabesque Op.18 [6:49]
Carnaval Op.9 [29:27]
Angela Brownridge (piano)
rec. Square Chapel Centre for the Arts, Halifax
Volume 2
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Scherzo No.1 Op.20 [9:02]
Scherzo No.2 Op.31 [8:48]
Scherzo No.3 Op.39 [7:08]
Scherzo No.4 Op.54 [10:13]
Fantasie in F minor Op.49 [12:33]
Piano Sonata in B minor Op.58 [25:28]
Angela Brownridge (piano)
rec. Fairfield Halls, Croydon
Volume 3
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Années de Pélerinage - Deuxième Année (Italie)
Sposalizio [7:17]
Il Penseroso [4:29]
Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa [2:24]
Sonetto 47 del Petrarca [5:27]
Sonetto 104 del Petrarca [5:41]
Sonetto 123 del Petrarca [6:09]
Après une lecture de Dante - Fantasia quasi Sonata [14:15]
Piano Sonata in B minor [25:36]
Angela Brownridge (piano)
rec. 12 December 2011, Fairfield Halls, Croydon
Under the rubric of ‘The Great Pianist Composers’ Angela Brownridge and Cameo Classics present three recently recorded discs devoted to a selection of works by Schumann, Chopin and Liszt. The attempt is presumably to give a cross-section of works by each composer with each disc circling around a major Sonata.
Brownridge is certainly no stranger to the music of Schumann. In fact she recorded the Album for the Young for Hyperion, and it can now be found on Helios CDH55039. Here she performs the G minor Sonata with great attention to detail, taking excellent tempi, and playing with skill and sensitivity. Judged by the highest exemplars on disc - let’s say Levitzki, Grainger and Gilels to choose three - she can be heard to hang fire, lacking the sense of drive and anticipation generated by that trio of titans. Her reserve is certainly not unattractive but she is not one ardently to phrase through paragraphs. Her tone though is warm and often delightful. In Carnaval she seems especially preoccupied with the music’s dance elements, and takes her time exploring and presenting them, as she does in Pierrot. Textures are light and there is real clarity in her performances. Chopin is not effusive and she abjures the grand seignorial in Paganini. This disc is completed by attractive performances of the Abegg Variations, and a genial-sounding Arabesque.
Volume two is devoted to Chopin. She plays the four Scherzos, the Fantasie in F minor and the B minor Sonata. If one starts with the sonata, one reprises those virtues of tonal lustre, refinement of phrasing and distinctive clarity that illuminated her Schumann disc. The only limitations, really, are expressive ones. Both here and in, say, the Fantasie one feels her holding back at the ends of phrases where she could, with profit, drive onwards. There is sometimes a shying away from emotional commitment. This is a shame as her bright and engaging Scherzos, especially No.4, show that ‘she could if she would’.
Her Liszt sonata doesn’t feel especially fast but when one looks at one’s watch one realises that it is. It must be one of the fastest performances on disc in fact. Again, the salient points to note are those of digital clarity and a studied refusal to over-pedal. Indeed she is scrupulous throughout these three discs in her avoidance of over-pedalling. Her approach is thus strongly linear, avoiding muddied textures. Her chording is sound, and highly accomplished. Occasionally this does come across as rather circumspect and almost surgical. The physical demands of this sonata are strong and I felt energy somewhat sapping toward the end, which loses phrasal shape once or twice, good though the earlier fugal section is. Clearly Horowitz, Argerich, Arrau and Fiorentino, to name a formidable quartet, offer a wholly different, more knotty, kinetic, virtuosic and overwhelming experience. In addition, her Petrarch Sonnets are again marked by directness - though her No.47 is surely too detached and cool. However her Il Penseroso is another matter; it has something of the gaunt trajectory of Sofronitzky’s recording. And Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa has a straightforward and engaging quality, though it doesn’t seek to replicate Sofronitzky’s occasional outbursts of raw emotion.
There are two different venues involved in these three discs. The recording quality is excellent though, being cut at a relatively low level, you’ll need to turn up the volume. In all these are sympathetic performances.
Jonathan Woolf
Sympathetic performances. 

Masterwork Index: Liszt piano sonata