Dutilleux, Barber

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COMPOSERS: Barber,Dutilleux
LABELS: Lyrinx Talents
WORKS: Piano Sonata; Trois préludes; Piano Sonata
PERFORMER: Mika Akiyama (piano)
The single piano sonatas of Henri Dutilleux and Samuel Barber make a logical pairing: both written in the late Forties, both substantial works requiring a virtuoso technique and both in an essentially conservative idiom enlivened by touches of modernity. Mika Akiyama, born in Tokyo in 1973 but now firmly established in France, plays them with dazzlingly clear, crisp fingerwork and a ready colouristic response to their changing moods, and adds a thoughtful account of Dutilleux’s atmospheric Three Preludes from the Seventies and Eighties. She allows herself considerable freedom of tempo, on the whole convincingly, though sometimes – especially in the first movement of the Barber – she skids through complex rhythmic patterns and loses grip on the pulse. The recording is generally good, but occasionally rather heavy in the bass and clangorous in the extreme treble (at least in the basic CD format, which sits alongside stereo and multi-channel SACD). This disc hardly supplants the authoritative recordings of the Dutilleux works by the composer’s wife Geneviève Joy (Erato Ultima), or those of the Barber Sonata by its dedicatee Vladimir Horowitz (RCA) or, in stereo, by John Browning (Phoenix). But it acts as a generally impressive and enjoyable calling card for a pianist of considerable accomplishment. Anthony Burton