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The Austrian pianist and composer Anselm Hüttenbrenner (1794-1868) is remembered for his friendships with Beethoven and Schubert, but he also produced works of mid-Victorian charm such as these Geisterszenen (1850), offered in what is billed as a world premiere recording by the German pianist Julia Rinderle. Born in 1990, Rinderle has studied with Ludmila Lissovaja, Ingmar Schwindt, Roland Krüger and Jan Jiracek von Arnim. A devotee of chamber performance, her repertoire ranges from Bach to John Cage, Luciano Berio and Gilead Mishory.

Although by 1850, Hüttenbrenner may have been haunted by the spirits of his two famous friends, his Ghostly Scenes are sprightly and confident, prefiguring Saint-Saëns’ Danse macabre in their upbeat sense of enjoyment, albeit lacking the latter’s Parisian urbanity. Rinderle is a fluent, winning advocate. Not the most consequent music, its charm nonetheless prolongs the celebratory mood of Schubert’s social circle.

Schumann’s Ghost Variations expresses a tragic void, akin to Schubert’s hurdy-gurdy man in Die Winterreise. This forlorn spirit is conveyed with understated simplicity by Rinderle, underlining the difference between amusing parlour ghosts and inescapable tragedy. The innate torment audible in this work, Schumann’s last before disappearing into madness, has some of the questing, disconnected quality of fragments written by the poet Friedrich Hölderlin. Although not a popular work, Schumann’s Geistervariationen has been championed by Grigory Sokolov, András Schiff (ECM New Series 2122/23) and Michael Endres (Oehms Classics OC366), among others. Rinderle does not match the emotional impact of these predecessors, but her limpid reading is persuasive.

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing