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CD Review

Friedrich Kuhlau

The Piano Sonatinas - A Selection

  • Sonatinas, Op. 20 #1, 2 & 3
  • Sonatinas, Op. 55 #4 & 5
  • Piano Sonatas, Op. 60 #1 & 2
  • Piano Sonatas, Op. 88 #1 & 3
Erik Fessel, piano
Danacord DACOCD622 77m DDD
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One of the main figures in Danish music at the beginning of the 19th century was certainly Friedrich Kuhlau. Born in 1786, he had a strong international outlook and was mainly responsible for the introduction of Beethoven's music to Danish audiences. His oeuvre consists of five operas, musical dramas, chamber music, music for the flute and above all, a huge amount of piano works. It is due to the latter instrument that posterity remembers him, and this disc is a fitting tribute, albeit a small one to his genius as a composer of the piano.

Although Kuhlau wrote an extensive number of ambitious sonatas and variations, his piano music has become practically synonymous with his sonatinas. When he died in 1832, their popularity was widespread and so it remains to this day. The miniature-like character of those little gems, added to the language and style of ascending and descending scales and broken triads has made them accessible to both the student and the seasoned performer.

Sonatas #1 & 2, Op. 60 written in 1824 are the two small exceptions of this album and although they both include a set of variations over themes from Rossini's 'Armida' they are closely related, technically, to the sonatinas and only slightly more taxing. Kuhlau's compatriot, Erik Fessel, gives delightful interpretations of these intimate works, creating that domestic ambience which is precisely the reason why they were written. The recording is slightly on the dry side, but nonetheless clear and well balanced. My only qualms are the rather sparsely detailed notes on offer but otherwise this is a most stimulating disc on all counts.

Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech