Collectors will recall the magnificent disc the Australian pianist, Trevor Barnard, made some years ago of the Bliss Piano Concerto (shortly to be reissued). Here he gives a striking account of the Piano Sonata, the capricious nature of the score captured with playing of mercurial agility. The remainder of this generously filled disc contains a brilliant reading of Busoni’s 24 Preludes, Barnard’s crisp articulation bringing an admirable clarity to the most complex passages”
Recording **** Performance ****
This is an outstanding CD, in which full credit must go to the technical and musical expertise of the Melbourne-based sound engineer and producer Leslie Craythorn, who has caught the atmosphere and brilliant playing of Trevor Barnard’s exceptionally vivid accounts of the highly contrasted, yet equally forward-looking works.Busoni’s set of Preludes using the same sequence as Bach and other composers including Shostakovitch, is an extraordinary feat of youthful genius, since they were completed when he was only fourteen. As such they contain energy and innovatory keyboard invention which anticipates future works, including the great Piano Concerto. Trevor Barnard had studied with Busoni’s pupil Herbert Fryer when he was in his early teens and has championed Busoni’s music throughout his career. It is his intimate understanding of Busoni which brings special significance to this performance, placing it in context while also displaying the youbng composer’s fascination with Bach’s genius and his own growing delight in the modern piano of his time.Sir Arthur Bliss’ Piano Concerto was recorded by Barnard under Malcolm Sargent and is to be re-released by Divine Art in the near future. The first official recording of the Sonata was made by the Australian Rhondda Gillespie on the Argo label, paired with Constant Lambert’s Sonata and both these Australian pianists worked with the composer on their interpretations. Barnard’s approach makes much of the fiery power of the outer movements, while placing the serene Adagio in a contrasted context. As such it would be fascinating to hear him in a new interpretation of the concerto.
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE:
The linking factor between the works on this unusual and welcome disc is the pianist Trevor Barnard’s former teacher, Herbert Fryer. Among Fryer’s other pupils was the young Arthur Bliss; and back in 1900, Fryer himself had been deeply influenced by a masterclass with Busoni.Barnard, a British-born pianist who is now a music faculty lecturer at the University of Melbourne, has an evident enthusiasm for both works. They compliment each other very well as a programme, bearing similarities – virtuoso demands and often complex harmonic language – but contrasting in structure. Busoni’s 24 Preludes follow the 24 keys in the same sequence as Chopin and Rachmaninoff’s sets of preludes and present inventive, well-varied pieces set within Busoni’s generally rugged pianistic style; less immediately appealing than those peer-group preludes, they could nevertheless find a healthy place on concert programmes as a suitable alternative.The neglect of the Bliss sonata is perhaps more difficult to understand as this is a tremendous piece, its three movements full of dynamic argument, rhetoric and élan. Barnard’s playing is full-bodied, with generous pedal, a weighty tone and a fine ability to control atmosphere and emotional temperature; he might have benefited from sound quality which allows the details to emerge more sharply, however.Performance **** Sound ***
This is an important disc although many will feel the Busoni preludes are both unoriginal and uninspiring. But the Arthur Bliss is very welcome. [here reviewer describes each Prelude in detail..]……..It is good to have this work available. It is of historical interest. And so to the Arthur Bliss Piano Sonata of 1952 which is vastly superior and has some fascinating forays into 'a modern style'. The slow movement is akin to a soliloquy, although a chaconne, which is a good contrast to a somewhat disappointing first movement. The finale has a stunning start but I am not convinced that the performance is always controlled. I have heard the piece played better. Nonetheless it has to be remembered that it is an exceptionally difficult piece to play ... after all, it is not Mozart or Schubert and I would love to be able to play it. I am pleased to know that Trevor Barnard's recording of the Bliss Piano Concerto is due for release by Divine Art shortly. This is probably the best British piano concerto in the tonal tradition ... a truly splendid work and I am looking forward to it.
Performances *** Recording ****
(EXTRACT): The sympathetically elegant Trevor Barnard’s your man…… this is indispensable, and you are best advised to pick it up sooner… Sound is transparently immediate.
(sorry, original full review deleted)