Ivan Ilić: Reicha Rediscovered

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Reicha
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Reicha Reimagined
WORKS: Harmonie; Grande Sonate; Capriccio, Sonata on a Theme of Mozart; Fantaisie sur un seul accord; Etude
PERFORMER: Ivan Ilić (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10950

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Ivan Ilić’s Reicha Rediscovered is infinitely more satisfying than the other Reicha release reviewed here (above), partly because of the colour and drama infused into the music, and partly because Ilić has much more interesting things to play. All the pieces on this disc (and Lowenmark’s)  are recorded for the first time. Subtitled ‘a contribution to the intellectual culture of the composer’, Reicha’s 24 Practische Beispiele were his application of the theoretical rules he himself had laid down, and Ilić plays three of them. The section entitled ‘Harmony’ consists of fantasias – in varied tempos and characters – strongly reminiscent of CPE Bach in their surprising modulations and shifts in mood. Capriccio is highly capricious, and Fantaisie sur un seul accord is simply that: it’s a tribute both to Reicha and to Ilić that this extraordinary exercise in harmonic self-denial is anything but boring. 

Grande sonate is an imposing piece of virtuosity that roams through remote keys, and its spacious Adagio creates a very Beethovenian effect; its final Allegro is rigorously economical, exploring each of its ideas to the limit. The variations on Mozart’s ‘March of the priests’ from Die Zauberflöte become another measure of Reicha’s invention, while the final Etude tests his powers of expressiveness by dwelling on one simple rhythmic idea. All these pieces deserve to be incorporated into today’s recital repertoire. 

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Michael Church