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Broad expressive capacity…..superb technical abilities

Pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi - Sterndale Bennett And Schumann

Record Geijutsu, Shinnosuke Nagai

Sterndale Bennett and Schumann
Hiroaki Takenouchi

The London-based pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi is active internationally tackling a wide-ranging repertoire including works by British composers such as James Dillon and Japanese composers, and not only as a modern piano soloist but as a fortepiano player and ensemble pianist as well.

This is a disc of a rather novel combination juxtaposing the Sonata no.1 by the romantic British composer Sterndale Bennett and Symphonic Etudes by the German romantic giant Robert Schumann. It transpires however, that these two were tied by a strong friendship, with Schumann dedicating Symphonic Etudes to Bennett.  It is easy to see how highly Schumann regarded the younger composer, and also Bennett’s considerable capability as a pianist, through the fact that he was dedicated a work that contains a concentrated essence of Schumann’s piano music. Bennett himself would later come to consider Schumann’s works “rather too eccentric”, and as evident from the work recorded on this disc, his own musical language is fairly conservative, with superbly well-ordered forms and rich harmony throughout. It is somewhat akin to that of Mendelssohn; the manifold songs shape the music by layering themselves upon others but the emotions never drown the music and the transparency is never lost. Needless to say it is partly the contents of the music itself that make us realise this but Takenouchi’s performance also plays a big part.

His tone is very rich and his legato playing so immaculate that all the melodies contained in the work seem to beautifully resonate and melt into each other. With Symphonic Etudes in which he utilises his tone palette to the full, we are treated to the sensation that as we go through each of the twelve variations, manifold colours and countenances are springing truly embodying the work’s title by immersing us in the variety of tone-colours and architectural qualities. Especially notable are the switches between the light and dark, the multifaceted and brilliant tone colours worthy of the adjective “symphonic”, and the clear insight to develop the subjects freely yet in a controlled manner. And in listening to the finale, one will be left in no doubt that his broad expressive capacity is only made possible through his superb technical abilities.

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A hugely enjoyable listen, played with infectious authority

The Arts Desk, Graham Rickson

Pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi - Sterndale Bennett And Schumann
Hiroaki Takenouchi does the piece proud

British Music Society, Michael Round

Unwavering conviction and … constantly expressive musicality

Myron Silberstein, Fanfare

Pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi - Sterndale Bennett And Schumann
Exhilarating playing here from pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi

The Guardian, Stephen Pritchard

Pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi - Sterndale Bennett And Schumann
Takenouchi handles this with bravura ease and a warm, refined sound

Crossed Eyed Pianist, Fran Wilson

Pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi - Sterndale Bennett And Schumann
Romantically affluent, poundingly sonorous and rich in pathos

MusicWeb International, Rob Barnett

Pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi - Sterndale Bennett And Schumann
Rich in tone and possessing an enviably secure technique – 5 Stars

Classical Ear, Andrew Achenbach

Pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi - Sterndale Bennett And Schumann
Brilliantly played by Takenouchi

End Notes – The Quarterly Review, Stuart Millson

Confidence, conviction and tremendous panache

Em Marshall-Luck, Albion Magazine

Pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi - Sterndale Bennett And Schumann
His playing is rich, dazzling and intelligently shaped

Sunday Times, Stephen Pettitt
Sterndale Bennett and Schumann – Hiroaki Takenouchi

Movingly Played

MusicWeb International, John France

“My major discovery on this CD was the only piece by a British composer – Ernest Walker’s heartbreakingly, beautiful Study (not a Prelude as given in the notes) for the left hand alone, op. 47 (1931). Better known for his seminal A History of Music in England, Walker was a composer, organist and pianist. The present work was one of three written for the pianist Paul Wittgenstein who had lost his right arm during the First World War. The Study is deeply felt, largely exploiting the lower registers of the piano and demanding a good legato technique. It is movingly played here by Hiroaki Takenouchi.”


He is unfailingly convincing, his playing thoughtful, lyrical and spontaneous

The Sunday Times, Stephen Pettitt

A convincing advocate

American Record Guide, Don O’Connor

“The performances are excellent. Takenouchi’s skill and, as important, his belief in the music makes him a convincing advocate. Yates and the RNSO capably abet a worthy enterprise.”

Finely played

Gramophone, David Fanning

“Hiroaki Takenouchi […] is impeccable in his pianism and unfailing in his idiomatic grasp.”

“Once again finely played by Takenouchi, this too is a must-have for anyone interested in the post-history of the Romantic piano concerto. With decent orchestral support and recording, and excellent documentation, it all adds up to a more than welcome issue.”

Yates and Takenouchi revive Russian and British concertos

The modem rediscovery of Georgy Catoirc’s modestly proportioned oeuvre was kick-started by Marc-Andre Hamelin’s 1999 Hyperion recital (1/00- soon to reappear on Helios). Since then the chamber music has been quite well served, leaving just the songs and orchestral works in search of modern champions.

The Piano Concerto was composed in 1906-09, according to most catalogues, though its first performer, Alexander Goldenweiser, gave 1911 as the date of completion. Dutton do not claim theirs as a first-ever recording; though if Aima Zassimova’s lavish documentary study (Berlin, Verlag Emst Kuhn: 2011) is to be trusted, it would seem to be so. Like all Catoire’s instrumental works, the Concerto bears the mark of his close encounters with Tchaikovsky, Taneyev and Scriabin. Accomplished pianist and thoroughly trained composer that he was, the music always falls gratefully on the ear, though in terms of surprise, delight or individuality it lags far behind the likes of, say, Cesar Franck, whose Symphonic Variations loom large behind the 19-minute first movement. Any limitations in the music’s effect are surely no fault of Hiroaki Takenouchi, however, who is impeccable in his pianism and unfailing in his idiomatic grasp.

The adventurous spirit of this young Japanese-bom, London-based pianist also gives us the Second Concerto (1932-33) of Percy Sherwood (1866-1939), a German-born pianist-teacher-composer who settled in Hampstead at the onset of the First World War and whose manuscripts now reside in the Bodleian Library. This is music still solidly rooted in the 19th-century Germanic tradition, with some imposing Rachmaninovisms grafted on. Never less than accomplished, it is never much more than that either. Once again finely played by Takenouchi, this too is a must-have for anyone interested in the post-history of the Romantic piano concerto. With decent orchestral support and recording, and excellent documentation, it all adds up to a more than welcome issue.

Gracefully expressive

BBC Music Magazine, Michael Church

“For Takemitsu, walking through a garden was a quasi-musical experience, and that’s the feeling one gets from Les yeux clos II, the late work by him in this collection.  Debussy’s sound-world is his source, but he pursues the argument into mystical realms; Hiroaki Takenouchi delivers it with gracefully expressive economy, as he does the eight other piece he has chosen to reflect the pianistic tradition among Japanese composers schooled in the musical ways of the avant-garde West.

The other pieces which stand out here are Joji Yuasa’s exquisite Cosmos Haptic (‘relating to the sense of touch’), in which single notes and terse phrases are dropped like pebbles into a silent pool, and Sachiyo Tsurumi’s exuberant Toy 2 for piano and electronics, in which the piano’s timbre is decorated by gentle gurgles and burps.”

Performance  ★★★★
Recording  ★★★★

Takenouchi will go far

MusicWeb International, Mark Sealey

“This is a sumptuous, relaxed, languorous CD of nine spare – yet also explosive – Japanese contemporary pieces for piano.  It is as much an act of love as it is of exposition of new music.  The composers have been chosen by Hiroaki Takenouchi to represent work from that country of the last half century or so.  They reveal an intensity with – and, really, a sort of authority over – melody, texture, rhythm and what the instrument can do.  This intensity, this sense of command, can amaze, if we enter this sound-world as receptive listeners”

“a recital of real depth and interpretative strength […] here is beautiful, accomplished and truly delightful music.”

“Miyoshi’s and Nodaïra’s pieces are in contrast with what comes immediately before and with Hosokawa’s “Haiku”, which follows it, in that they have more pace, more evident animation.  The “Haiku” homage to Boulez shares some of the latter’s sound-world: clusters, vertical groupings, a love of sound for sound’s sake, sporadic interjections which serve to imply the melodic lines, rather than define them in linear fashion.  Here Takenouchi is at his poetic best.  Pauses, attacks, holding of notes – such techniques seem aimed at stretching the limits of pianism, without self-consciousness.  In fact they plunge us right into the essence of best practice and great creativity for the instrument.”

“This is emphatically and unashamedly modern, at times dissonant and aggressively uncompromising playing of honest, crystalline music.  Takenouchi (just 30 years old) is based in London, where he studied with the late Yonty Solomon.  He will go far.  His sureness of touch and dramatically clear and clean insight are ideally suited to this music and to the world it inhabits.  For something new, different, yet essentially full of integrity, beauty and creativity, this CD is well worth a look.”

Back To Top 19/10/2021