A thoughful programme of masterpieces

Freddy Kempf delivers a well crafted collection some of Rachmaninov, Bach, Ravel and Stravinsky's finest works

Title: Variations on a Theme of Corelli
Rachmaninov, Bach, Ravel, Stravinsky
Repertoire:  (Rachmaninov); Chaconne from Partita No.2 (Bach/Busoni); Valses Nobles et Sentimentales (Ravel); Three movements from Petrushka (Stravinsky)
Artists: Freddy Kempf (pf)
Rating:  4/5
Genre: Instrumental
Label: BIS BIS SACD 1810

The Music: Four dance-inspired masterworks: the Rachmaninov based on the folía, originally a Portuguese dance (not Spanish as the booklet says), Bach’s Chaconne derived from a slow Hispanic dance, Ravel’s waltzes reflecting those of Schubert, with Stravinsky providing a transcription of three movements from his own ballet score.

The Performance: Kempf opens with a beautifully-voiced and judiciously-paced view of Rachmaninov’s Variations. Others will care more than me for his way with the Bach- Busoni Chaconne, with its brusque attack and a harsh tone that ultimately robs the music of its magisterial dignity. By contrast, he finds a meltingly silvery touch for the Ravel Valses (exquisite) before a return to the Russian repertoire that he plays so well, leaving us, thrillingly, in no doubt that the piano is a percussive instrument.

The Verdict: A well-contrasted, thoughtfully considered programme of four great works. Whether the sum of the individual parts adds up to a satisfying whole must be a matter of personal taste.

Want More? Hear Kempf in stunning accounts of more Russian music: Prokofiev’s Piano Concertos Nos.2 and 3 with Andrew Litton (BIS, BIS-SACD-1820).