Friday, October 18, 2019

Anton Bruckner the Miniaturist

courtesy of Naxos of America

The name Anton Bruckner is most frequently associated with large-scale orchestra music in the domain of both symphonies and sacred music. Nevertheless, early in his career he wrote solo piano compositions that are far better suited to intimate social gatherings, rather than concert halls and cathedrals. His output in this genre is modest. Last month Brilliant Classics released a recording of his complete piano music (see below for qualification) played by Francesco Pasqualotto. It all fits on a single CD consisting of 31 tracks.

Pasqualotto is far from the first to record this canon. Nevertheless, Brilliant has packaged its recording with an informative set of booklet notes, giving the attentive listener ample background for this less familiar side of Bruckner’s compositional efforts. Still, he seems to overlook that at least one of the moments in the four Lancier-Quadrille that open the album is likely to evoke thoughts of Jacques Offenbach, rather than of Bruckner. (This leads one to wonder whether Bruckner ever thought to try his hand at operetta.)

Most of the album is devoted to selections from the Kitzler Study Book. This is a workbook in which Bruckner wrote pieces during his studies with the conductor and cellist Otto Kitzler. The entire volume consists of 163 pages of different sizes, not all of which are solo piano compositions.

To be fair, Pasqualotto has not accounted for all of the piano works in this notebook, meaning that the collection is not, strictly speaking “complete.” Furthermore, the track listing does not indicate which of the selections are from the notebook, nor does that listing provide the WAB catalog numbers (including the unclassified works with “deest” identification). Nevertheless, Pasqualotto’s selections are definitely representative and more than adequately so. Ultimately, this is an album best appreciated for its intimacy; and, where Bruckner is concerned, that is an attribute worthy of attention!

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