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A classy album of deep musicality and sensitivity

Classical Source, Ateş Orga *****

Astonishingly (especially considering the enquiry of so many German specialist and boutique labels), Simon Callaghan’s debut solo disc for Hyperion, is a Nicodé first. And most welcome and generous it is.

The imposingly ‘Beethoven-Brahms-Reger’ titled Variations and Fugue on an Original Theme in D-flat, dedicated to Anton Rubinstein, dominates … Overall, the sum impression is of a rounded creative identity, the music moving onwards rather than disjunctively, pianistically aware but steering clear of fashionable parameters. A twenty-five-year-old in Dresden, musing at his German grand, cigarillo to hand…

This image, more intimately, is carried further in the ten perfectly formed poësieen making up the Liebesleben cycle, printed the following year. The opening tableau, ‘First meeting’, is as winning a three minutes as you’ll find …

The six phantasiestücke of the Andenken an Robert Schumann collection (1876), inscribed to Clara – she of anti-Liszt/Wagner/Bruckner sentiment – are youthful essays in pastiche. Skilled for sure, but pastiche nonetheless. If Schumann hadn’t been born, they would be remarkable.

Befitting his passion for discovery, Simon Callaghan acquits himself superbly. This is a classy album of deep musicality and sensitivity, pianistically compelling.

Five stars.

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04/08/2020