Busoni, Bliss

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COMPOSERS: Bliss,Busoni
LABELS: The Divine Art
WORKS: 24 Preludes, Op. 37
PERFORMER: Trevor Barnard (piano)
The linking factor between the works on this unusual and welcome disc is the pianist Trevor Barnard’s former teacher, Herbert Fryer. Among Fryer’s other pupils was the young Arthur Bliss; and back in 1900, Fryer himself had been deeply influenced by a masterclass with Busoni. Barnard, a British-born pianist who is now a music faculty lecturer at the University of Melbourne, has an evident enthusiasm for both works. They complement each other very well as a programme, bearing similarities – virtuoso demands and often complex harmonic language – but contrasting in structure. Busoni’s 24 Preludes follow the 24 keys in the same sequence as Chopin and Rachmaninoff’s sets of preludes and present inventive, well-varied pieces set within Busoni’s generally rugged pianistic style; less immediately appealing than those peer-group preludes, they could nevertheless find a healthy place on concert programmes as a suitable alternative. The neglect of the Bliss Sonata is perhaps more difficult to understand as this is a substantial and tremendous piece, its three movements full of dynamic argument, rhetoric and élan. Barnard’s playing is full-bodied, with generous pedal, a weighty tone and a fine ability to control atmosphere and emotional temperature; he might have benefited from sound quality which allows the details to emerge more sharply, however. Jessica Duchen