Bartok, Brahms, Britten, Debussy, Grieg, Janacek, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Poulenc, Schubert & Schumann: Piano Music by Bartók, Brahms, Britten, Debussy, Grieg, Liszt, Janácek, Mendelssohn, Poulenc, Schubert & Schumann

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bartok,Brahms,Britten,Debussy,Grieg,Janacek,Liszt,Mendelssohn,Poulenc,Schubert & Schumann
LABELS: ATMA Classique
WORKS: Piano Music by Bartók, Brahms, Britten, Debussy, Grieg, Liszt, Janácek, Mendelssohn, Poulenc, Schubert & Schumann
PERFORMER: Julius Drake (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ACD 2 2616

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Julius Drake is one of Britain’s most sought-after pianists for chamber music and Lieder. It’s a treat to hear him take centre stage, and for this solo CD he has compiled a very personal programme of short pieces closely related to the world of song. That songfulness glows in several eponymous pieces by Mendelssohn, Brahms’s Intermezzo Op.117 No.1, Debussy’s Clair de lune, four pieces from Bartók’s Mikrokosmos, and much more. Perhaps the most unusual is Liszt’s transcription of Schubert’s Der Doppelgänger, which stands out vividly as a short and terrifying visit to the dark side.
 
But on the whole, the recital evokes lullabies and moonlight, nostalgia and intimacy, all of it cushioned by Drake’s warm sound, beautiful phrasing and affectionate touch. The majority of pieces are slow and reflective; that’s not to suggest that this is a CD of mood music – though admittedly it could probably pull its weight at a dinner party. There’s a lovely unity to it and the pieces are well ordered to complement one another.
 
A little more variety in the overall mood of the programme might not have gone amiss, and the pianist could perhaps have made greater differentiations in his approach to each piece. But on the whole it’s a gorgeous listen. The recording (made at Henry Wood Hall) is both close and resonant, which undoubtedly suits this intimate, long-breathed music. Jessica Duchen