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Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Le Tombeau de Couperin [24:38]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Five Preludes, Op. 74 [6:20]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Sonata No. 21 in B flat, D960 [42:00]
Alexander Schimpf (piano)
rec. 12-14 March 2012, Studio 2, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich
OEHMS CLASSICS OC 867 [72:58]

Alexander Schimpf delivers an excellent Tombeau de Couperin, each movement highly individualized: the prelude rattles off maybe a little too eagerly, but the fugue is impressively delicate and well-voiced, the rigaudon really snaps under Schimpf’s strong rhythmic control, and the minuet is as expressive as anyone could wish. Schimpf barely hangs on through the repeated notes of the toccata, in a performance by turns delicate and scintillating. I could spend an hour or two comparing nuances of Schimpf’s interpretation with performances by the likes of Bavouzet, Osborne or Abbey Simon, which is high praise indeed. The comparisons themselves may not be so; for instance, there’s no touching Michael Endres’ jazzy snap in the fugue.
 
Between the two big works we have a palate-cleanser, the five preludes which represent Scriabin’s last music. Here’s Scriabin untethered from any harmonic or structural rules, spooling out sixty to ninety seconds of strange, exciting ideas at a time. Schimpf does well here again, and the jarring dissonance which ends the set is a surprisingly effective opener for the, by contrast, simple singing tones of Schubert. I thought: Schubert is timeless.
 
Indeed “singing” is a good word for the Schubert here; it’s presented with maybe too much simplicity. The slow movement is a flowing song very well-voiced, and indeed the whole performance is soft, bright, and clear, except when drama is called for in the finale. When drama is a good idea in the first movement - particularly in the dark, jagged passage which rewinds the piece back to the beginning, before the five-minute mark - it’s smoothed over and made placid.
 
Overall I’m very impressed with Alexander Schimpf’s work here. It’s bold to take on three of the great piano composers in your international CD debut, and it’s rare to meet each of them with such a sympathetic approach. Very good sound quality and a program which goes together well; I hope to hear more from the pianist soon.
 
Brian Reinhart 

Masterwork Index: Schubert piano sonata 21

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