Light and Shadows

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COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Chopin,Janacek,Schumann
LABELS: Edition Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Light and Shadows
WORKS: Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 15 (Pastoral); Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 2; Schumann: Waldszenen; JanáΩek: Christ the Lord is Born
PERFORMER: Tom Poster (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: EDN 1060

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In this thoughtfully programmed album, ‘Light and Shadows’, we get ‘radiant’ Beethoven, ‘dark’ Chopin and Schumann’s Waldszenen, a work that lives in the flickering half-lights of the forest. That sense of light and shade, though, is not conveyed in Poster’s playing so much as his poise and admirable attention to detail.

Beethoven’s Pastoral Sonata flows gently, tenderness balanced with sparkling fingerwork in the first movement, and a light touch that complements the lovely lilt of the finale. Poster’s dynamics are carefully graded, as is his pedaling, necessarily judicious in a generous though intimate acoustic. Could the Andante and Scherzo have been let off the leash a little more? Murray Perahia certainly gives them more character: a beautiful surface isn’t always enough.

The nine movements of Waldszenen infuse nature with a sometimes-unsettling spirit. Schumann’s pianist wife Clara reportedly found some of it too painful to play. For all his finesse and nuance, I feel Poster somehow tames the music’s elusive spirit. Yet his crystalline, silvery tone suits the strange ‘Vogel als Prophet’ and ‘Verrufene Stelle’; and the ‘Hunting Song’ bounds to life.

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Chopin’s Funeral March Sonata also seems to skirt the edges of the wild darkness; the finale’s graveyard wind blows without chill. But Janácek’s brief Christ the Lord is Born emerges from the gloom, as described by the eloquent booklet notes, ‘fragmentary’ and ‘luminous’. Rebecca Franks