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Unwavering conviction and … constantly expressive musicality

Myron Silberstein, Fanfare

My first item of praise for this recording is its programming. Readers familiar with my reviews and Want Lists know that I am highly sympathetic to musicians who rescue repertoire from obscurity. But there are two caveats to my sympathy: First, the music’s obscurity must be undeserved; second, the performance must be of service to the music—a poor performance hinders the music’s cause more than the mere act of making it available to listeners helps.

Hiroaki Takenouchi wins on both these counts: William Sterndale Bennett’s First Piano Sonata is a very good piece of music that deserves to be heard, and Takenouchi’s interpretation and execution make a strong case for it. Even better, Takenouchi’s programming places the Bennett in a context that may attract mainstream listeners.

The current program has a sound, specific musicological connection: Schumann and Bennett were personal friends, Schumann was a passionate advocate for Bennett’s music, and Schumann dedicated his Symphonic Études to Bennett.

Bennett himself dedicated his op. 16 Fantasie to Schumann, which would have made it an even more fitting discmate from a musicological perspective. From a purely musical perspective, though, the sonata complements Schumann’s Études very well. The four-movement, 36-minute sonata is ambitious, soul-searching, and intimidatingly virtuosic.

Takenouchi plays it with unwavering conviction and with constantly expressive musicality. The first movement in particular requires a long view, and Takenouchi understands where transitional material is going, how sequences build, and how musical material develops.

Takenouchi’s playing of the Schumann is as attentive, thoughtful, expressive, and impressive as his playing of the Bennett. The Études’ considerable technical demands pose no apparent problem for him, and he plays the opening and the slower variations with a great deal of grandeur.


In short, this recording is a refreshing find: an introduction to repertoire that most listeners have surely never heard, and a thoroughly reputable performance of a canonical favorite. The engineering is resonant and live-sounding, albeit a bit too close. Recommended, with minor caveats.

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A hugely enjoyable listen, played with infectious authority
Pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi - Sterndale Bennett And Schumann
Hiroaki Takenouchi does the piece proud
Pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi - Sterndale Bennett And Schumann
Exhilarating playing here from pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi
Pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi - Sterndale Bennett And Schumann
Takenouchi handles this with bravura ease and a warm, refined sound
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Romantically affluent, poundingly sonorous and rich in pathos
Pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi - Sterndale Bennett And Schumann
Broad expressive capacity…..superb technical abilities
Pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi - Sterndale Bennett And Schumann
Rich in tone and possessing an enviably secure technique – 5 Stars
Pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi - Sterndale Bennett And Schumann
Brilliantly played by Takenouchi
Confidence, conviction and tremendous panache
Pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi - Sterndale Bennett And Schumann
His playing is rich, dazzling and intelligently shaped
Movingly Played
He is unfailingly convincing, his playing thoughtful, lyrical and spontaneous
A convincing advocate
Finely played
Gracefully expressive
Takenouchi will go far
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05/08/2020