The disc title Circus & Magic
is an ingenious way of grouping
together this set of short piano pieces. It has allowed for the inclusion
of some works that are rarely, if ever heard.
That is certain to be the case with regard to the Bloch pieces which
pianist Reinis Zarins writes still remain unpublished 90 years after their
composition. On hearing them it is impossible to fathom why that should be
as they are truly delightful and beautifully played with perfect timing,
pauses all in the right places and plenty of light and shade bringing out
the humour which abounds in each of the four character sketches. It’s
a shame to bid goodbye to them and move on.
Well that would normally be the case but not so much here as the
next works are by Debussy whose music I can never get enough of.
is less often heard than other of his piano compositions so
it is nice to hear it here. There are some wonderfully delicate moments as
well as the a chance to hear the power Debussy brings to his music at times.
When I want to buy a new road map I usually look to see if small places that
I know are included which are sometimes omitted in some issues; it’s
my yardstick for deciding if it is as good as the last one I had. In the
same way I regard the way in which La Cathédrale Engloutie
played as my benchmark for deciding on a pianist’s Debussian
abilities. I agree with Zarins when he writes that it invokes
“wondrous amazement in me”. He brings to it that magical mixture
of grandeur and mystery with a real sense of an underwater world. Feux
is really excellently played achieving the very
definition of fireworks with smouldering touch papers followed by some
fantastic ‘explosions’. It perfectly encapsulates the images of
shooting stars and ends with recognisably dying embers.
The three pieces from “Cinderella” by Prokofiev are
again beautifully played, really bringing the magic of his sound-world to
life. The Ligeti piece was a revelation to me and I adored it - what a
contrast to the hackneyed Dukas; I shall have to look for more of his piano
music as I’ve obviously been missing out. It was very interesting to
read about how the three movements from Petrushka
came about which,
along the way, lead to considerable disagreement between Stravinsky and the
arrangements’ dedicatee Arthur Rubinstein, about the piano and its
role in music. The result in any case was something of such complexity that
it was the only work Stravinsky wrote that he himself could not perform.
Reinis Zarins, however, makes it sound easy-peasy including the vital
contrasting alternation of loud and soft which so often comes with a
frequency that must tax the best pianists. The arrangement gives the music a
different dimension from its orchestral relation. The result is fabulously
exciting with Zarins bringing out every shade of colour and nuance to
achieve a brilliant performance of utterly impressive power.
Latvian-born Zarins lives in London with his family so it is to be
hoped that we should be hearing a lot more from him which I very much look
This is a hugely enjoyable disc with a clever and rewarding
collection of exciting pianistic gems. I loved it with an hour passing by in
what seemed like the blink of an eye. I’m off to play it again …