Szymanowski, Lachenmann, Franz Schubert, Schapira-Marinescu, Erkin, Grieg, Feuchtwanger & Cowell

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Erkin,Feuchtwanger & Cowell,Franz Schubert,Grieg,Lachenmann,Schapira-Marinescu,Szymanowski
LABELS: Arte Nova
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Piano Portrait
WORKS: Preludes, Op. 1; Five Variations on a Theme by Franz Schubert; Five Haiku; :Five Drops
PERFORMER: Susanne Kessel (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 75498 2
I hate to use the word ‘minor’ of composers or music, but for a pianist specialising in new music the 30-year-old Susanne Kessel has chosen a rather random and peripheral selection from the 20th century. Sure, neither Szymanowski nor Lachenmann are minor – Lachenmann enjoys similar prestige in Germany to Birtwistle in Britain – but the works here which represent them are early and uncharacteristic. That said, Szymanowski’s Preludes are lovely examples of late-Romantic melancholy and Kessel plays them with eloquence and sensitivity. She has a beautiful sound and a wide range of colour, and, in the fifth Prelude, she delivers big gestures with passion. In Lachenmann’s sometimes fractured Schubert Variations she is brilliant and alert to rapid changes of character. Five Haiku by Schapira-Marinescu are post-serial impressions which seem rather anonymous and old hat for 1990. Peter Feuchtwanger’s Tariqa and Erkin’s Five Drops are studies in what used to be called exoticism but now goes under the flabby label of world music. They are really encore pieces, and Kessel plays them with what sounds like great precision. In Grieg’s Forest Quiet she creates a sense of repose, which is spoilt in Cowell’s Aeolian Harp only by the excessive brushing sound of her hand across the piano strings. Adrian Jack