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Following his recordings of Liszt and John Ogdon, Tyler Hay tackles Kalkbrenner’s 25 Grandes études Op 143, adding an outsize twist on Chopin. This is a first recording on a modern instrument and Hay’s performances are richly inclusive. He can swashbuckle with the best of them (witness his Allegro furioso of No 5, which he sees as ‘a storm at sea’) as well as displaying huge capacity for grace and empathy (heard in the ‘hauntingly magical textures’ of No 13).

Hay’s enthusiasm for his project is boundless, leading him to quote Chopin’s assessment of Kalkbrenner the performer – ‘Herz, Liszt and Hiller are all zeros next to Kalkbrenner’ – though the parallels he draws with Chopin’s 24 Études beg some questions. Blades of light alternate with studies that remain studies, music that unlike Chopin’s fails to cross the Rubicon from pragmatism to poetry. Endings can be disappointingly abrupt, as if Kalkbrenner was unable to find a convincing or illuminating conclusion. But there is more than enough to prompt interest (notably the Alkanesque oddity of No 9, which alternates dreams with abrupt interruptions), and Hay’s performances are an awe-inspiring tribute to what is clearly a special love.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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