JS Bach: Concerto in D minor after Alessandro Marcello, BWV 974; Rachmaninov: Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op. 42; Liszt: St Francois d’Assise – La prédication aux oiseaux; Après une lecture du Dante – Fantasia quasi sonata
Alessio Bax (piano)
Signum Classics SIGCD611 64.33 mins
In his excellent programme notes, Alessio Bax remarks that since ‘there is almost a total dearth of Romantic piano music from Italy’ his programme needs to be ‘very creative.’ He is as good as his word playing an enterprising, consistently enjoyable set of pieces, many of which will be unfamiliar to most listeners, even those who specialise in the Romantic repertoire. He begins his programme with Bach’s brief Concerto after Marcello, not one of his masterworks. There follows what certainly is one of Rachmaninov’s finest pieces, even if it is comparatively neglected, his Variations on a Theme of Corelli. The theme is the inordinately familiar La folia and is followed by 20 variations, each of them striking, none of them immediately identifiable as being by Rachmaninov. They strike me as being among his finest works and Bax plays them with great intensity.
Even rarer is Annalibera’s Musical Notebook, 11 pieces written by Dallapiccola for his daughter. He was Italy’s prime 12-tone composer, once very fashionable, and now in need of this kind of life-giving treatment. Bax again excels and may well put these pieces on the map.
He concludes the programme with more familiar fare; two works by Liszt, the first being the attractive St Francis preaching to the birds, and the second the Dante Sonata, whose comparative popularity is a mystery to me. No matter: this remains an excellent and absorbing recital, played with panache and dedication. Michael Tanner