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Circus & Magic
Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
The Two “Burlington” Brothers [2:51]
The Clown [2:39]
The Homeliest Woman [2:10]
Dialogue and Dance of the Heavyweight and the Dwarf [3:02]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Masques (1904) [4:54]
La Cathédrale Engloutie (from Preludes, Book I) (1910) [6:27]
Feux D’Artifice (from Preludes, Book II) (1913) [4:36]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Three Pieces from Cinderella Op.95 (1942):
Intermezzo [3:02]
Gavotte [2:44]
Slow Waltz [5:16]
Gyorgy LIGETI (1923-2006)
Der Zauberlehrling (No.10 from Etudes) (1994) [2:32]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Three movements from Petrushka (1911):
Russian Dance [2:43]
In Petrushka’s Cell [4:49]
The Shrovetide Fair [8:55]
Reinis Zarins (piano)
rec. Music Room, Champs Hill, East Sussex, UK, 19-21 June 2012
CHAMPS HILL RECORDS CHRCD048 [56:50]

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That is certain to be the case with regard to the Bloch pieces which pianist Reinis Zarins writes still remain unpublished 90 years after their composition.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. Masques 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 is 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 D’Artifice 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 forward to.
 
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 … yet again!
 
Steve Arloff 




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