Beethoven, Schumann, Stravinsky, Chopin

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Chopin,Schumann,Stravinsky
LABELS: Ongaku
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Petrushka and Other Prophecies
WORKS: Piano Sonata in C minor, Op. 3; Waldszenen; Three Scenes from Petrushka; Scherzo No. 4 in E, Op. 54
PERFORMER: Randall Hodgkinson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 024-111 (distr.Vivante London)
Lurking beneath a booklet design that would normally proclaim a free gift given away at a petrol station, featuring a scratchy photo of Randall Hodgkinson as down-at-heel game-show host, is a rather spectacular piano recital. The title of the disc, Petrouchka and Other Prophecies, is more misjudged marketing; in fact Hodgkinson’s unpretentious musicianship is free from the visionary mannerisms that other pianists might have insinuated into Beethoven’s final piano sonata, and even Schumann’s Waldszenen.

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First up are the Three Scenes from Petrushka. Jerky rhythms in the opening ‘Danse russe’ suggest hesitancy rather than careful planning, but Hodgkinson’s performance settles down and throughout the other two movements develops into a formidable pyrotechnic display every bit as virtuosic as it ought to be.

Hodgkinson’s Beethoven is a treat, and a pleasant surprise too after the big-hitting gestures of Petrushka. Central to an outstanding performance is the perfect realisation of the shape of the Arietta, quietly driving forward but never forced.

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Chopin’s Fourth Scherzo shows Hodgkinson master of another mood, cheekily tripping his way through the showers of notes. And finally a warm-toned account of Schumann’s Waldszenen, ripe with charm and simplicity, rounds off a very impressive debut solo disc. Christopher Wood