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Rameau: Premier Livre, Suite in E, Suite in D

Jill Crossland (piano)

Signum - SIGCD278 [TT: 71 mins]

Far less often recorded than JSB's WTC, Philippe Rameau's keyboard pieces sound very well on the modern piano* and under Jill Crossland's adept fingers and fit on a single well packed CD.

She is comfortable with the idiom in its rhythmic flexibility and the need for idiomatic ornamentation. This was far my best experience of Crossland's playing, live and recorded.

The notes by her partner Ying Chang are carefully researched and make a good case for the disc.

Everyone should enjoy it all; recommended for a Christmas present and onwards.

Peter Grahame Woolf
December 2011

* See Fitch


J S Bach
Well-tempered Clavier, Book 1

Jill Crossland (piano)

Signum SIGCD113 [TT: 62 + 66 mins]

A welcome to the latest recording of WTC Vol. 1 on a Steinway.

Jill Crossland performed all the Bach '48', from memory at college and maintained the composer as her respected specialism - "the only composer to whom I can return infinitely often".

Her commentator Ying Chang abbreviates controversial matters, and cites Peter Williams to 'cut the Gordian knot' about temperament - unlikely to have been Bach's primary interest - and instrumental choice - the modern piano widely accepted - the starting point for scholarly debate about recreating the composer's intentions v. re-interpreting for today's changed conditions and outlook.

I am of the persuasion that Johann Sebastian's future lies with the more distant past and that performances on modern pianos are tending towards becoming increasingly anachronistic, even as the years pass since 2003, when these accounts were laid down in Cambridge.

This is nicely recorded fluent playing, which I followed from my undated Peters copy (heavily annotated by Adolph Ruthardt) from which I learnt to play some of the easier ones as a child piano pupil in the '40s. (At school, Preludes from the 48 were played regularly in Assembly; Fugues never!)

Some details in Crossland's performance are not to my taste - she does a massive twelve bar rallentando through a whole minute at the end of Fugue 4! The justification for that demands some debate.

At that point Jill and I parted company - only to regain contact immediately after with her light, quicksilver Prelude V (Ruthardt, who leaves little to chance, wants Allegro vivace, crotchet = 132).

Is not one of the perennial attractions of Bach his openness to diverse interpretations? No way can a Bach performance satisfy everyone, nor any question about Jill Crossland's devotion to the cause.

At the end, it is a matter of feeling, with the other extreme being some who would deny the use of the sustaining pedal, and think that the clavichord (which has no possibility of climaxing with a ff doubled bass) is the right instrument... Rather than my trying to respond in detail to more of the 48 pieces of Book One (with Book Two promised from Signum in due course) I should prefer to ask for reader comments, please?

Peter Grahame Woolf

Well-tempered Clavier, Book 2

- - My own observation about Crossland's WTC Book 2 on Signum (of which I've heard quite a lot now, a few at a time) is that her recordings are unlikely to become seriously competitive within an overcrowded market. Her publicist might well consider releasing a CD of the more attractive Preludes on their own?

Has that been tried? Others have praised Jill Crossland's playing, on MP too, but I have not been able to find a Bach expert willing to commit reactions to print after hearing her Bach CDs... [PGW]

Jill Crossland in Musical Pointers: