Fantasien: Anna Tsybuleva

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Brahms,CPE Bach,Schubert
LABELS: Champs Hill Records
ALBUM TITLE: Fantasien
WORKS: CPE Bach: Fantasie in F sharp minor; Beethoven: Phantasie, Op. 77; Schubert: Fantasy, D760 (Wanderer-Fantasie); Brahms: Fantasies, Op. 116
PERFORMER: Anna Tsybuleva (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHRCD 131

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The Russian pianist Anna Tsybuleva, winer of the 2015 Leeds International Piano competition, has had a nice idea: to put together fantasies by four composers, each of a very different stamp. And if the correspondences between those by Schubert and Brahms are somewhat tenuous, those between the fantasies of CPE Bach and Beethoven are surprisingly close.

CPE Bach wrote his Fantasie in F sharp minor in 1787, the penultimate year of his life, and, as Daniel Jaffé suggests in the liner note, its wayward trajectory may have reflected uncertainties in his mind. At all events, its seems to echo both the piano fantasies of Mozart and the great Chromatic Fantasy of his father Johann Sebastian, in its stops and starts and sudden dramatic gestures. Tsybuleva delivers it brilliantly, with its opening exquisitely ruminative, and its frantically busy figurations alternating with a sense of wonderment, as though we are exploring an unknown terrain for the first time. It seems perfectly natural to segue from this into Beethoven’s Phantasie, Op. 77, whose downward-rushing scales echo CPE Bach’s, and which indulges in similarly mischievous toying with our expectations. Tsybuleva plays both these works with impressive authority. Her Schubert is not in the same league, partly thanks to an intermittent lack of balance between bass and treble in the recording: at times the bass almost disappears.

Her approach to the Brahms Fantasien is unconventional: sections of No. 2 float like thistle-down, No. 4 is a pianissimo Chopinesque whisper, No. 6 needs more power in its outer sections, but for the finale she lets herself off the leash, and goes out in a blaze of glory.

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Michael Church