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CLASSICAL  July 2006

CLASSICAL July 2006

Subject:

Jill Crossland Plays 18th Century Music

From:

Donald Satz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 24 Jul 2006 06:14:35 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

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"Music at Restoration House"
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
English Suite No. 3 in G minor, BWV 808 [20:12]
Fantasia in C minor, BWV 906 [5:26]
Well Tempered Clavier Selections:
Prelude and Fugue in C minor, Book 1, BWV 846 [3:52]
Prelude and Fugue in D major, Book 1, BWV 850 [3:53]
Prelude and Fugue in D minor, Book 1, BWV 851 [3:52]
Prelude and Fugue in D minor, Book 2, BWV 875 [3:55]
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Chaconne in G major, HWV 435 [10:59]
Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757)
Sonata in E major, K. 380 [5:25]

Jill Crossland, fortepiano
Recorded Live at Restoration House, Rochester, England, 26 February 2005
Divine Art 25036 [57:40]

This very rewarding set of performances by Jill Crossland is played on
the 1824 Jirikowsky fortepiano at Restoration House in historic Rochester.
Restoration House is a combination of two medieval buildings in the
latter part of the 16th century created as a mansion house in the heart
of Rochester.  Its fame comes from being the home of Miss Havisham in
the Charles Dickens novel "Great Expectations", and its name is derived
from the fact that King Charles II used it as an overnight base on the
eve of the Restoration.

The Jirikowsky fortepiano, although a Moravian instrument, has the
qualities of a Viennese fortepiano.  Built in 1824, this fortepiano has
pedal action entirely absent from the type of fortepiano that Bach was
familiar with, namely a 1746 Gottfried Silbermann that we know Bach had
played.  However, Jill Crossland makes only minimal use of the pedals,
mitigating the differences between the two instruments.  The Jirikowsky
has an attractive woody tone, admirable depth, and only slight mechanical
noise action.

Jill Crossland is a young adult keyboard artist who primarily concentrates
on music of the 18th Century.  She received her training at Chethams and
the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester; other notable instruction
was given by Paul Badura-Skoda in Vienna.  Crossland's recent concert
schedule in the UK has been a busy one, including occasional appearances
at the South Bank in London and two at Wigmore Hall in 2004.  She also
has a few recordings to her credit with discs of Beethoven, Mozart, and
Bach on the Calico Classics label and a Warner Apex recording of Bach's
Goldberg Variations.  Crossland is currently working on a recording of
Bach's complete Well Tempered Clavier, and I am eagerly awaiting its
release.

Crossland's style of playing on this Divine Arts disc is highly
demonstrative with powerful bass strokes, strongly articulated phrasing
and incisive accenting.  She pushes the music forward at every opportunity,
and the buoyancy of her rhythmic patterns is very impressive.  At the
same time, Crossland can be tender, elegant and poignant when the scores
demand such responses.  Still, soft coaxing of the music is not what
Crossland is all about; it is strength, boldness and a rather primitive
display of emotion that informs her interpretations.  Most extraordinary
is an extra reservoir of power that explodes from Crossland's hands at
the most advantageous moments.  Also, the detail and conversational
elements among the myriad of voices are constant pleasures throughout
the program.

Naturally, Crossland's interpretive style will not be to everyone's
liking.  What strikes me as most important is whether she has chosen a
program that fits well with her approach.  In this case, the answer is
clearly in the affirmative.  Bach's English Suite No.  3 easily handles
her strong approach, and the Fantasia in C minor and most of the selections
from the Well Tempered Clavier are tailor-made for her style.  Handel's
Chaconne is also a fine piece for Crossland, and even the gentle Scarlatti
Sonata in E major well absorbs the greater urgency that Crossland offers.

I'd like to utilize the English Suite in G minor as a barometer of
Crossland's playing, because it is the work on the disc that covers the
widest array of architecture and emotional breadth.  In six movements,
it begins with a decisive and quick Prelude combining great joy and
tension; Crossland offers incisive bass strokes and a macabre atmosphere
without sacrificing the music's lyricism.  The 2nd Movement Allemande
contrasts tenderness with urgent refrains in a reflective cocoon, and
Crossland's poignant inflections and pin-point articulation in a performance
of moderate tempo are a joy to experience.  Next is the French-style
Courante with its quick pacing, exuberance, and strong forward drive;
Crossland gives it a relatively straight-forward and mainstream
interpretation with abundant momentum and detailed conversation among
voices.  The 4th Movement is an introspective Sarabande of serious
dialogue highlighted by extensive and embellishments capped off by Les
agrements which are figurations and embellishments more elaborate than
in the Sarabande proper and that are used to insure a varied repeat of
themes.  More than any other piece on the program, the Sarabande is
"thinking" music rich in emotional content that requires many listenings
to uncover all its glories.  Crossland provides an exceptional performance
where she luxuriates in the music while weaving a host of scenarios, and
her strong articulation makes for a confident interpretation of storytelling
proportion.

The 5th Movement of the English Suite is a French dance called the
Gavotte, and Bach offers it in ABA form.  The first section is fast,
powerful and tense, the second quite tender and inward.  Crossland's
first section displays excellent rhythmic vitality with plentiful tension,
while her second section is gentle and mesmerizing.  The final movement
is a Gigue where the second section is an inversion of the first, a
device not uncommon in Bach's arsenal.  This is the only piece on the
disc where Crossland is a little tame and doesn't take full advantage
of the severity and drive present in the score.

Don's Conclusions: Jill Crossland's disc is highly rewarding and especially
recommended for fortepiano enthusiasts and those who have no problem
with a Bach of strong demeanor.  With clear and detailed sonics, I would
consider the recording essential except for one consideration.  As the
program progresses, a cumulative impact creeps in of Crossland pushing
the music too hard.  With this in mind, I recommend that the entire disc
not be played at one sitting.

Don Satz
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