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Protégé - Liszt - Reubke - Piano Sonatas - Anthony Hewitt, piano

Protégé - Liszt  - Reubke - Piano Sonatas - Anthony Hewitt, piano-Chamber Music
ID: DDA25064 (EAN: 809730506420)  | 1 CD | DDD
Released in: 2008
Divine Art
Chamber Music
LISZT, Franz | REUBKE, Julius
HEWITT, Anthony (piano)
Other info:
LISZT, Franz (1811-1886) 
1. Piano Sonata in B-, S.17831:10 
REUBKE, Julius (1834 - 1858) 
2. Piano Sonata in Bb-29:00 


MUSICWEB: This is a valuable and enterprising release, featuring a seemingly obvious coupling for the first time on CD. The Liszt ‘B minor’ is no stranger to the catalogue, but the rarer Reubke Sonata has also been lucky to have received some fine recordings in recent years, notably those by Till Fellner and Jeremy Filsell, the latter coupled with the Organ Sonata on the 94 th Psalm. To be able to listen to two such fine performances side by side by a player who obviously possesses a strong affinity with this style lends this release a compelling authority.
Reubke is one of the might-have-beens of nineteenth century music, tragically dying at the age of twenty four. It seems all the more miraculous then that he managed to write two such important and substantial pieces. The Organ Sonata is one of the staples of the repertoire, and is arguably a more successful work than his teacher Liszt’s Fantasia and Fugue on "Ad nos, ad salutarem undam" on which it is based. It has a thematic unity and economy of invention that is lacking in sections of the Piano Sonata, even taking into consideration the different resources. Perhaps he would have revised it if he had lived longer, a luxury Liszt was granted during his long life. Yet in such a sympathetic recording as this, its mixture of youthful exuberance and virtuosity more than make up for any structural question marks.
Hewitt’s grasp of the narrative aspects of Liszt’s Sonata is strong, as is his ability to lend a sense of inevitability to each section. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, the number of recordings of this piece is bewildering, ranging from the devil-may-care Argerich to the more cerebral Brendel. Hewitt seems to fall into the latter camp, being more intent to focus on the purely musical aspects of the score than in showing off his considerable technique. In his quest to achieve a unified interpretation - perhaps highlighted by providing just one CD track for each piece - I sometimes felt he under-emphasised the climactic moments, particularly in the slow movement build-up, but its fluency and drive are impressive on any level.
For me this release is particularly valuable for the Reubke Sonata: its importance in the repertoire is not fully appreciated and such a recording as this will win it many new converts. The CD notes are informative and detailed and the recording is clean and truthful. Robert Costin
GRAMOPHONE: (“Gold rosette Recommended Recording”) The English pianist Anthony Hewitt (b1971) is the winner of several competitions (though not, as the booklet claims, the William Kapell International Piano Competition - he was awarded joint second place in 1992 when no first prize was given). He is a remarkably gifted artist and though recordings of the Liszt Sonata are not exactly thin on the ground (roughly 70 are currently available) this account can hold its own with some of the finest. It is a pleasure to hear the left-hand figurations, such an important feature of the work, given due but not overwhelming prominence, allied to a superb leggiero touch and a beautifully even, silken sound.
Recordings of the Reubke Sonata by comparison are sadly few (six in the catalogue, not counting Hamish Milne’s pioneering 1977 recording on L’Oiseau-Lyre - nla). Hewitt’s trump card is that his is, surprisingly, the first recording to couple the Reubke and the Liszt. The two have obvious parallels, not least the acutely dotted principal theme of both, the three-in-one movement structure, their daring exploration of tonality and the final major-key resolution of both. Hewitt is no less persuasive and fluent here, though Claudius Tanski (MDG) brings greater weight and musical imagination to bear throughout - the Wagner-like maestoso - andante sostenuto section at 12’04” for instance, the handling of the quirky 6/8 allegro agitato rhythm at 25’46” and the presto octaves at 26’51”. Not that you will be able to find these of any individual sections tracked here or in the Liszt, the one black mark against this welcome issue. Jeremy Nicholas
CLASSICALNET: This disc is more of an accolade to Liszt’s acumen as a teacher rather than to his dazzling brilliance as composer and virtuoso. The Sonata in B minor is one of the greatest masterpieces of the piano repertoire, and with its ambivalent moods and introspective structure, is very difficult to bring off. Anthony Hewitt’s performance is exemplary in all respects and he captures the work’s inner turmoil with uncanny ease. Nonetheless, the highlight of this CD is Reubke’s work, which is a very rare piece that deserves to be heard much more frequently.
Julius Reubke was one of Liszt’s most distinguished pupils and was earmarked for a great career. Tragically, death struck him down when he was only 24. The Sonata dates from 1857, one year before his demise, and is very much in the mould of his master’s work. Maybe it does lack a certain profundity, but it is certainly not short of dramatic intensity and also lyrical serenity. Alternating between the two moods in quite perfect harmony. Hewitt reveals a strong predilection for this work, and his involvement in the music is commensurate. A beautifully presented album which is worth having just for the Reubke work alone. Gerald Fenech
INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW: It is extraordinary that this coupling never seems to have been made before. There are some 80 versions of the Liszt B minor Sonata (1853) in the catalogue at the moment, and only five of the Reubke Sonata in B flat minor (1857). Reubke had been recommended to study with Liszt by Hans von Bülow and he clearly made a very favourable impression before his untimely death at the age of only 24. Just as his better-known Organ Sonata betrays the influence of Liszt, so too does his Piano Sonata, which ingeniously combines sonata form with a four-movement structure as does Liszt in his Piano Sonata (from which Reubke even appears to quote). Pianistically it shows a similar diversity of ideas and an astonishing fecundity of invention: this is most certainly the work of a master and not just a pupil. The harmonic language is in many ways more advanced and more unstable than Liszt's the full and rich sonorities (particularly in the rather hymnal middle section) are remarkable, and the only weak link might be the final major-key apotheosis.
The young British pianist Anthony Hewitt puts himself firmly on the map with this coupling (although here again top prize at the Willam Kapell Competition in 1992 was in fact joint second place, no top prize being awarded). As regards the Liszt, clearly this is an immensely crowded market-place, and of recent recordings I cannot recommend too highly David Wilde's thought-provoking account on Delphian with a similarly challenging coupling of Busoni's Elegies . Hewitt's Liszt is occasionally lacking in intensity and momentum but I would certainly recommend this disc wholeheartedly for the Reubke, which receives a magisterial performance. He performs it with absolute conviction and a real sense of inexorable drive, as if it is as organic and unified as Liszt's masterpiece. The recorded sound is excellent and Hewitt provides his own thoroughly researched booklet notes. Nicholas Salway
MID SUSSEX CITIZEN (and other regional newspapers): An interesting offering from pianist Hewitt which juxtaposes works by Franz Liszt and his youthful protégé Julius Reubke, who died in 1858 at the tragically early age of 24. Thus largely forgotten figure evidently absorbed a great many musical influences from his illustrious mentor before synthesising them into a the derivative but compelling “Sonata in B flat minor” which Anthony Hewitt interprets so splendidly here. Kevin Bryan


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