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Bach Beethoven Mozart Chopin

Jill Crossland (piano)

Bach Selections from 48 Preludes and Fugues (The Well-Tempered Clavier)
Beethoven Bagatelles, Op.126
Mozart Variations on ‘Ah vous dirai-je, maman in C, K.265 (K.300e) (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star)
Chopin Ballade No.3 in A flat, Op.47; Scherzo No.1 in B minor, Op.20; Impromptu No.4 in C sharp minor, Op.66 (Fantaisie-impromptu)

Blackheath Halls - 25 May 2008

This was a disappointing appearance by a rather unpredictable pianist, who has been reviewed by Musical Pointers many times now. She seemed a little out-of-sorts (I understood afterwards that she had found the Blackheath Bosendorfer uncongenial) and made no contact with her (small) Sunday morning audience. Her face was hidden, all but invisible behind her hair, even from the right hand side . Perhaps the too conventional programme of canonic favourites put some people off, though it serves well enough "on the road", so I've gathered, and she has a well packed recital diary, with her next London booking at Streatham.

The main problem was that Jill Crossland's playing was "same-y" whichever the composer. She has, by choice, a lmited repertoire with Bach at its core, and her career does not connect with the burgeoning new century. Beginning with her beloved Bach, she brought no special insights to some of the 48 (her Signum recordings of both books are now available).

Neither was there a sense of wonder and magic in the marvellous late Beethoven bagatelles, nor any fairy-tale fun tapped from the Mozart variations on a nursery tune which everyone knows. After a hard-pressed Ballade, I departed before the completion of her Chopin selection.

My piano teacher at school regularly played Preludes from the 48 at morning assembly, but never the fugues... Is JSB's canonisation working against his best interests in the 21st Century? The Emersons have recorded selections of JSB's 48 Fugues (only) on string quartet (to poor reception from Gramophone) and previously the Art of Fugue. The latter, given complete recently by the great pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard got devastating reviews from his Wigmore Hall marathon...

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...

Readers of MP will know that I am far from a perfect-Bachite. For contrapuntal music of today and yesterday I urge you to try e.g. Nancarrow's and the poly-rhythmic discoveries of Ligeti junior, whose CDs have recently bowled me over in their takes on old forms; I mock not... Against my expectations towards the turn of the century, I have come to believe that I am privileged to be living into one of the most exciting eras in the world's art musics...

Peter Grahame Woolf

* See Jill Crossland, well filmed, playing Bach on You-Tube


PGW 2010