Circus & Magic

Album title:
Circus & Magic
Bloch, Debussy, Ligeti, Prokofiev, Stravinsky
Reinis Zarins (piano)
Champs Hill Records
Catalogue Number:
BBC Music Magazine
Circus & Magic


This variegated collection of works includes a rarity that Reinis ZarinsĖ‡ has discovered: Ernest Bloch’s Four Circus Pieces are not in print, but definitely should be. They were written in a rush in Cleveland, where this Swiss-born composer had settled, and though they were only meant as a diversion, his performances of them – with his own running commentaries – made them a popular concert staple. They echo Chopin and Debussy, and Stravinsky’s Petrushka is mirrored in both texture and gesture, but Bloch’s soundworld is
his own, and very beguiling.

This 28-year-old Latvian has a refined artistry that in some ways serves the Debussy pieces well – Feux d’artifice has a fastidious flamboyance – but Masques gets lost in the detail of its own passagework: its contours need sharper rhythmic definition, while the cathedral is shrouded in a mist that lacks the necessary drama. By contrast, the Ligeti is a delight, beginning with needle-sharp precision and culminating in Mediterranean warmth. Zarins's Prokofiev is nicely idiomatic, and his performance of Petrushka is one of the most charming accounts of this work I have ever heard.

Michael Church