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Pöntinen’s latest Busoni collection is themed on homages to three great forebears – Bach, Mozart and Chopin – whether reinterpretations of their works, as in the fluent reworkings of Bach from organ to concert grand piano, or imaginative fantasias taking their music as starting points for original composition, such as the great Fantasia nach JS Bach and Giga, Bolero e Variazione (nach Mozart). In between lies the Variations on a Prelude by Chopin, presented here in its later (1922) shortened form in an account of sublime and stylish pianism.

The programme focuses on an aspect of Busoni’s creativity much discussed but rarely spotlit. All of Wolf Harden’s Naxos discs combine (not unintelligently) transcription with original matter; these and Maurizio Baglini’s programme of transcriptions (Tudor) emphasise the value of Pöntinen’s in charting the range of Busoni’s empathy with the music of the past, the range and depth of his responses to it and the sheer quality of the results. Pöntinen’s playing of the Chaconne synthesises power and delicacy, outshining recent fine rival accounts, such as those by Baglini, Harden and Bernd Glemser (Oehms), the last-named coupled with four of the Choral Preludes. Yet Pöntinen is a master of the miniature, too, with exquisite playing in the smaller works, the Albumblätter and Nuit de Noël not least.

The difference between Pöntinen and his rivals in this repertory comes down to touch: the range of subtle tonal colourings he can draw forth from the keyboard. In the Fantasia, his expressive association with Busoni seems total in performance, if not as overtly virtuosic as Ogdon’s (Altarus). CPO’s sound is excellent; highly recommended.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Piano International, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing