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.