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British-Vietnamese pianist Tra Nguyen continues her journey through the piano music of Joachim Raff with this disc of premiere recordings, dominated by the Album lyrique of 1845. The five volumes that make up this work sum up the appeal and charm of this composer. Volume 1 comprises three Rêveries; Nguyen keeps them moving nicely. The longing gestures of the Ballade (Volume 2) are also effective. One does, though, get the feeling that ideas are not always fleshed out by the composer before he moves on to the next task and, despite Nguyen’s unwavering advocacy, the work does seem overlong. The Chopinesque decorations of the First Nocturne (Volume 3) are charming, though, while the virtuoso Scherzo of Volume 4 is also impressive. The work leads to the 10-minute, granitic Introduction et Fugue of Volume 5. The gentler Eglogues benefit from Nguyen’s subtle touch, but there is surprising virtuosity here, too; the Impromptu-Valse absolutely sparkles under her fingers, while the Fantaisie- Polonaise is an effective marriage of Liszt and Raff. A stimulating disc.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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