Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita no.2 in C minor BWV826 [19:13]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Sonata in C op.53 - “Waldstein” [25:35]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Impromptus D.899 [28:11]
Reiko Fujisawa (piano)
rec. 12-14 August 2011, Henry Wood Hall, London
QUARTZ QTZ 2094 [73:18]
A programme like this of three standard-fare favourite masterpieces smacks more of a student’s demo CD than the work of an artist intent on carving out an individual niche in the crowded market of recorded music.
As such it’s a classy product. Not many students could afford a recording of such effortlessly full sonority and ringing resplendence. And if not many artists since the days of Wilhelm Kempff and his ilk can have played the French overture-style introduction to the Bach Partita without a double dot in sight, Wilhelm Kempff and his ilk would have approved the rich sound, as well as the contrapuntal clarity and vital, translucent touch of what follows, allied with forward-moving but unexaggerated tempi.
Establishment Bach is succeeded by establishment Beethoven, bold but never manic, tingling vitality arising from the finger-work rather than the speeds, which are actually on the steady side.
One could hardly fail to enjoy this, or deny that the demo shows what it has to show. And yet ...
Already in my own student days, back in the 1970s, the conservatoires of Europe were overrun by promising young students, many of them from Japan, with an unfailing ability to produce instant excellence of this kind, but also with an unfailing inability to provide a valid reason why we should listen to one of them rather than another. The supply has not dropped off, as far as I know, so where so much excellence all ended up is anyone’s guess.
Imaginative programme-building can be a way - on CD at least - for artists to carve out a space for themselves among their equals. Fujisawa might give a thought to this next time. Indeed, her CV - for she is not really a debutante and has been playing regularly in London, Japan and elsewhere for about a decade - suggests that she is a good deal more adventurous in the concert hall than this cautious “demo” suggests.
However, the present offering does provide a hint that she can blaze a trail of her own even in standard fare, and this comes in the Schubert.
In a certain sense the recipe is the same. Only, applied to Schubert, it is individual, almost revelatory. She does not pussy-foot around. She plays with neither old-world schmaltz nor with the neurotic introspection of post-Brendel interpreters. The first Impromptu is exploratory yet forward-moving, majestic without heaviness. The second is not a pretty exercise in “jeux perlées”, it has strength, and passion too in the central section. In the third one might wish for greater intimacy, while admiring and succumbing to the open flood-tides. Most remarkable is the last, a little slower than usual, with pain, even vehemence in the outer sections and darkly powerful in the central episode. I shall certainly come back to this whenever Schubert Impromptus are under consideration and I can’t help wishing she had filled the disc with the other set of Impromptus rather than the anonymously excellent Bach and Beethoven. A Schubert cycle from Fujisawa, on this showing, could be an interesting, even exciting prospect. 

Christopher Howell 

Don’t let the anonymously excellent Bach and Beethoven cause you to miss some remarkable Schubert.