International Piano

This programme shows intelligent planning. A chronological approach saves us having to hear the four Ballades, Scherzi and so on back-to-back: and selective rather than comprehensive coverage means we don’t have to wade through the uncharacteristic Rondos, Variations on ‘La ci darem la mano’ and the First Sonata.

Burkard Schliessmann’s exhaustive booklet note explains his approach. Perhaps following up his earlier Bach release on the Divine Art label, he favours ‘crystalline clarity’ over ‘falsely applied emotionalism: Hence the sturdy rather than discreetly balanced accompaniments, the sober rather than soaring melody-lines, and the absence of featherweight or overwhelming extremes.

Try sampling the Preludes, pieces on which the booklet lays much emphasis. The slow ones are quite quick, the fast ones (Nos 5, 8, 16, 19. 23 and 24) slow and cautious-sounding. Could this be a symptom of Schliessmann’s deliberately moderate Baroque tempi? Persistent left-before-right is a matter of taste, but altered rhythms in No 1, semi-staccato left hand in No 3 (where the score has slurs), over-pedalled and uneven passagework in No 8, and incompletely balanced chords (here and elsewhere) are harder to justify.

Much thought must have gone into this set, recorded over six years, and the sound-quality is magnificent. However, for a more traditional view in this ferociously competitive market consider Valerie Tryon’s rival issue Chopin: .A Chronological Journey (APR 3071,3 CDs).

—Michael Round