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Ivan Ilić’s revelatory first disc of piano music by Antonín (or, as here, Antoine) Reicha concluded with the preludial first study from the 34 Études dans le genre Fugué Op 97 (1815-17). That collection is essentially a set of preludes and fugues, modelled to a degree on Bach’s sets, but with considerably more formal freedom in the preludes, which range from simple and not-so-simple Airs – as in Nos 4, 5, 9 and 12 – to the set of 12 tiny variations of No 3. The calm motion of No 1 (incidentally, a few seconds faster on Volume 2 than on the previous disc) takes on a different context when succeeded by its companion fugue. The numbering here is of the preludes and fugues as pairs. Volume 2 contains 13 of them.

I said of Volume 1 that ‘Ilić’s playing is wonderfully attuned to the style and content of the music and Chandos’ sound is superb,’ and I see no reason to modify my comments about its successor. With its wide range of styles, the first volume makes for an ideal sampler for this often overlooked composer; the 13 pairs of preludes and fugues in Volume 2 have less breadth but a more substantial feeling of scale, which is well communicated by their interpreter.

Ilić is also alive to the place of Reicha stylistically, part-way (like Hummel) between Beethoven and early Chopin; within the pseudo-Bachian context of the prelude and fugue, it makes for a beguiling synthesis.

As with Volume 1, there is a brief ‘encore’, here the 12th of the 36 Fugues Op 36 (1803). I wonder if we can expect more of that collection in Volume 3? Once again, highly recommended.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica

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