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Antonín Reicha was born in the same year as his friend and fellow student in Bonn, Beethoven. While his music never disappeared from view, especially not the copious volumes of wind music (including two dozen wind quintets), Reicha’s disinclination to publish most of his works left his output, particularly for piano, in limbo. This first volume in a new series devoted to the piano music is an exciting development in rehabilitating this once famous and important figure.

Ivan Ilić’s carefully selected programme showcases the music’s variety. The largest work is the Grande Sonate (c 1805), a typically lyrical, big-boned work, close in style and expressive ambition to Beethoven’s of this period. Hearing it with an ‘innocent ear’, one might be forgiven for thinking it is a lost Beethoven sonata, rather than an unpublished Reicha one. Next to it, the Sonata in F major seems slight by comparison, but this is a ‘sonata on a theme by Mozart’– not just a set of variations (which constitute the first movement). Note that the original finale is lost, so Ilić has substituted a contemporaneous Rondeau to complete it.

Most adventurous of all are the three pieces from the collection Practische Beispiele (Practical Examples, 1803), in which Reicha applied some of his more radical ideas. Harmonie (Fantaisies sur l’harmonie précédente) is a set of six interlinked fantasias, each elaborating the harmonic profile of its predecessor, the opposite to the more constrained Fantasia on a single chord. The Capriccio might seem almost perversely to be a sonata allegro, yet this is typical of Reicha’s disarming, unpredictable music. The brief Étude makes for a beguiling encore. Ilić’s playing is wonderfully attuned to the style and content of the music and Chandos’ sound is superb.Highly recommended.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica

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