WORKS: Transcriptions by Godowsky, Liszt, Prokofiev & Busoni. Passacaglia
PERFORMER: Antti Siirala (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555997
Finnish pianist Antti Siirala (b1980) snatched victory in controversial circumstances at the London International Piano Competition in 2000 (not 2001 as the disc’s cover carelessly proclaims). It’s good to see a young pianist delving into rewarding off-road repertoire (I can’t recall a previous recording of the Schubert-Busoni Overture), even if Prokofiev’s contributions are less than whelming.
But, if we take a polished mechanism for granted these days, Siirala’s musical response is, at best, uneven. Throughout this recital, a thought kept recurring to me: ‘How wonderful it would be to hear Benno Moiseiwitsch play this.’ Where are grace, charm and tonal refinement? Nowhere is the keyboard truly caressed, with Siirala’s relentlessly bright palette matched by the soulless, clinical acoustic in ‘Erlkönig’, the rarely played conflation of ‘Der stürmische Morgen’ and ‘Im Dorfe’, and the Overture. He is most impressive in Godowsky’s mighty Passacaglia, a performance that is well worth hearing, even if it lacks the detail and sophisticated finesse of, say, Marc-André Hamelin in this piece. In short, Siirala’s playing might win competitions but it doesn’t altogether win my affection. Jeremy Nicholas