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Toccatas and Fantasies (Konstantin Lifschitz)

Konstantin Lifschitz (piano) (Willowhayne)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Toccatas and Fantasies
JS Bach: Toccatas, BWV 910-916; CPE Bach: Fantasia in E flat; Peter Seabourne: Toccatas Nos 1-6; Fantasias
Konstantin Lifschitz (piano)
Willowhayne WHR073   144:49 mins (2 discs)

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Peter Seabourne, interviewed for the May issue of this magazine, remarked on the importance of collaboration, valuing ‘the opportunity to work with specific performers’. In the sixth of his nine-part solo piano cycle Steps, we hear Seabourne’s friend, the pianist Konstantin Lifschitz. In December 2019 Lifschitz premiered Seabourne’s Toccatas and Fantasias, juxtaposing them alongside works by JS Bach and CPE Bach. Documenting this programme in sound, Willowhayne Records allows listeners to hear canonic 18th-century repertoire afresh.

In the two-CD set, seven of JS Bach’s toccatas and CPE Bach’s E flat Fantasia H348 are interwoven with six toccatas and six fantasias by Seabourne. Lifschitz’s virtuosic readings comfortably accommodate Seabourne’s demands. We note the ‘music of exceptional difficulty’ in Seabourne’s Fourth Toccata, which ventures beyond a study in touch, exploring rhythmic and melodic elements. Lifschitz captures the drama and introspection of Seabourne’s Toccata No. 1 as well as the welcome delicacy of the Fantasia Malinconica. Lifschitz’s reimagining of CPE Bach’s innovative Fantasia in E flat utilises the modern concert grand’s dynamic power.

Among works by Bach senior, the D major and D minor Toccatas are heard in compelling interpretations. In this august company Seabourne’s music occasionally falls short, lacking the timbral ingenuity of say the selection of toccatas from Albany Records (2009). Nonetheless, his successful partnerships with several pianists and Willowhayne must be acknowledged. Some discrepancies between the track listing on page two and the notes themselves suggest more assiduous proof-reading is needed.

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Ingrid Pearson