Messiaen, Jan‡cek, Prokofiev

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COMPOSERS: Janacek,Messiaen,Prokofiev
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Scene
WORKS: La rousserolle effarvatte
PERFORMER: Severin von Eckardstein (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 604 1141-2
The 25-year-old Severin von Eckardstein won a contemporary music prize at Leeds in 2000, and it’s not hard to see why. In the Messiaen, his precision and command of colour are impressive, whether in the cascades of notes and chords which Messiaen hurls around the keyboard, the crystalline glissandos and trills or the more lush, sonorous harmonies which represent the backdrop of nature. And he has an acute sense of phrasing and rubato, not only within each musical gesture, but in the all-important spaces between, so that the music flows rather than going in fits and starts. Other available performances come as part of the complete Catalogue de oiseaux, and Peter Hill is worth investigating (Regis), though he is slightly more laid-back in his approach.

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In the Janácek, Eckardstein could be more laid-back himself: he says that ‘this music allows me the freedom to express emotional states to the full’, but it would be better if some of them were hinted at more obliquely, and left simmering under the surface. There’s a tendency to overdo dynamic contrasts and rubato, for the right hand to anticipate the left in an over-Romantic fashion, as well as a harsh tone in the bass: what this music needs is the Classical restraint of András Schiff. Things improve in the Prokofiev, but again there’s a tendency for the loud music to become strident rather than full-toned. And when Richter’s in the lists, with depth of tone in every note, even at speed, there’s no real contest. Martin Cotton