Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Fantasia in D minor, K397 [5:30]
Variations on Ah vous dirai-je Maman, K265 [11:44]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No.14 in C sharp minor Op.27/1 Moonlight [15:07]
Six Bagatelles Op.126 [19:42]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) - Ferruccio BUSONI (1866-1924)
Chorale preludes: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (after BWV140) [3:39]; Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (after BWV62) [4:59]; Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (after BWV177) [3:48]
Jill Crossland (piano)
rec. 13-15 August 2010, St. Paul's Church, Deptford. DDD.
DIVINE ART DDA25111 [64:16]
Jill Crossland has a style that is soft, pensive and deep. This depth is not heavy but is quiet and airy. All the works recorded here are well known; still the disc is worth acquiring, for even though Crossland's approach is not novel, it is rare among the "big names". For me it resembles a calm evening when a mother reads to her child in bed. Don't get me wrong: there is no languid sleepiness, and where the fire should burn it burns, but there are no Romantic excesses, no jagged lines and no rough surfaces. The acoustics are, regrettably, on the shallow side but one's ears adjust quickly.
The album starts with Mozart's dramatic Fantasy in D minor. Its simplicity and, at the same time, unconventionality go well with Crossland's hushed seriousness. The reading does not sound subdued, it is expressive yet without pressure. The heavy tread of Doom may not be the scariest on the market, but the tired sadness and the despair, so untypical of Mozart, are believable. In the end the composer brushes away the tears and gives us his smile; the ending is as fresh and carefree as a summer morning.
I don't count Ah vous dirai-je maman among the pinnacles of the variation art. Most of the variations do not go far from the original theme and more or less arrange it, as opposed to changing its elements as is done in the great sets of variations of the Three Bs. I've always found these variations too much of the same litter, all prestidigitation and bravura, and no performer can paper over that impression. Even here Crossland's reading is genial and sunny. This is pure Mozart, elegant and upbeat.
The pianist brings in the magic of the opening movement of the Moonlight Sonata, which is soft and viscid. This is not a pretty comfortable moonlight; this night is full of expectation, brooding, waiting, all with tension of a compressed coil in its heart. The middle movement is lively and dynamic, like the happy skipping of an adolescent girl - still childish, already graceful. In the stormy finale all the right accents are in the right places, and although this may not be the most exciting performance of this movement, it is a faithful one. The reading is muscular, solid and a tad heavy.
Beethoven's last set of Bagatelles fits Crossland's style like a glove. The set sounds as a unified whole, a 'sixpartite' suite. Beethoven's wisdom is spiced here and there with a grain of humour. The reading is soft and tender, balanced and intimate, with a lot of air and light. The slow pages glow while the fast ones are volatile. This is how I want my Bagatelles served.
The pianist wraps things up with three Bach-Busoni preludes. Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme gets a real organ-like sonority, due to the sparse and very low notes in the left hand. Like the tolling of huge bells, it has the majestic feeling of a dignified celebration. Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland in Busoni's hands became a sad, tired dirge, long and grand, dark and brooding. Its steady stride mesmerizes. I found the result quite addictive on repetitive listening. The last in the set is Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ. It quietly rolls away and takes your sorrows with it, leaving the feeling of solemn serenity.
I have noticed that I have started putting this disc on more often that I would have expected. We all need somebody to tell us these evening tales, like the children who need to hear their parent's voice: all is safe, all is good. I am sure that for each one of these works you can find more fancy and more thrilling interpretations but ... I am also sure that I will not stack this disc too far away from the player.
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