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Grenzgänge – Crossing Borders

Alexandra Sostmann (piano) (Prospero)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
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Grenzgänge – Crossing Borders
Works by JS Bach, Ligeti, Frescobaldi, Pachelbel and Pärt
Alexandra Sostmann (piano)
Prospero PROSP0034   69:24 mins

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The ultimate destination of Sostmann’s far-flung Grenzgänge (frontier crossings) is the Chaconne from Bach’s Solo Violin Partita in D minor Partita. Not in Busoni’s blockbuster of a piano transcription, but rather in Brahms’s altogether more literal arrangement that seeks to build in the requisite element of virtuosity by restricting the performer to left hand alone. It’s avowedly more restrained, and Sostmann plays it with a deliberately thoughtful, unshowy approach that casts a cool and forensic eye over Bach’s imposing tri-partite edifice. What’s gained in terms of translucent clarity is, however, at the cost of an enlivening intensity. Yet her measured calm perfectly suits Arvo Pärt’s Arinushka Variations, each note held exquisitely in perfect equilibrium.

Sostmann isn’t a pianist defined by restraint, however. She opens with a magisterially contoured, full-blooded account of Respighi’s no-holds-barred respray of Frescobaldi. And Frescobaldi’s shadow lengthens across the disc as she brings a romantic velvety precision to his pupil Froberger’s D minor Ricercar, and pensively caresses the hushed, inscrutable doggedness of Ligeti’s ‘Omaggio a Frescobaldi’, the final movement of his Musica Ricercata. Predominantly, Sostmann’s imaginatively-curated, ‘border crossings’ are about variation form across the ages – Pachelbel’s Ciacona in F minor crafted with a compelling sense of direction and momentum – but she allows herself the odd detour: Bach transcribed, is also revealed as a transcriber in the plangent little Adagio from Marcello’s D minor Oboe Concerto. All told, a disc crafted with illuminating curiosity and supple, sleek pianism.

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Paul Riley