Brahms and Schumann

£12.00

Much loved pianist, John Lill, plays touchstones of the 19th century romantic piano tradition. Lill is at his sparkling best in this wonderful repertoire. Lill’s concert career spans over fifty years and has taken him to over fifty countries, both as a recitalist and a soloist with the world’s greatest orchestras.

His busy concert schedule continues to take him up and down the breadth of the country from Scotland to the South Coast and also to Europe and beyond, including performances of these recorded works. Lill was awarded the CBE for his services to music in the 2005 New Year’s Honours List.

SKU: SIGCD075

What people are saying

"one of the noblest accounts on disc" Classic FM

"this CD is an attractive purchase … a masterpiece from a composer … by a player who knows exactly what is needed and delights in communicating it" Muscal Opinion

"one of the greatest pianists alive today…Unsurpassed playing. An intellectual giant and master craftsman. Beyond words" The Glasgow Herald "A recording truly worthy of celebration" International Piano Magazine

John Lill, Piano

Release date:5th Mar 2006
Order code:SIGCD075
Barcode: 635212007525

  1. Fantasie in C, Opus 17 – Durchaus fantastisch und leidenschaftlich Vorzutragen – Im Legenden-Ton – Tempo primo – Robert Schumann – 13.20
  2. Durchaus energisch – Etwas langsamer – Viel bewegter – Robert Schumann – 7.44
  3. Langsam getragen Durchweg eise zu halten – Etwas bewegter – Robert Schumann – 12.57
  4. 3 Intermezzi, Opv 117 – Andante moderato – Johannes Brahms – 4.42
  5. Andante ma non troppo – Johannes Brahms – 4.32
  6. Andante con molto – Johannes Brahms – 5.31
  7. Variations and Fugue on a Theme by G F Handel, Op 24 – Aria – Johannes Brahms – 1.00
  8. Variation I – Johannes Brahms – 0.48
  9. Variation II – Johannes Brahms – 0.41
  10. Variation III – Johannes Brahms – 0.41
  11. Variation IV – Johannes Brahms – 0.49
  12. Variation V – Johannes Brahms – 0.56
  13. Variation VI – Johannes Brahms – 1.02
  14. Variation VII – Johannes Brahms – 0.38
  15. Variation VIII – Johannes Brahms – 0.38
  16. Variation IX – Johannes Brahms – 1.32
  17. Variation X – Johannes Brahms – 0.39
  18. Variation XI – Johannes Brahms – 0.55
  19. Variation XII – Johannes Brahms – 0.57
  20. Variation XIII – Johannes Brahms – 1.40
  21. Variation XIV – Johannes Brahms – 0.40
  22. Variation XV – Johannes Brahms – 0.42
  23. Variation XVI – Johannes Brahms – 0.31
  24. Variation XVII – Johannes Brahms – 0.36
  25. Variation XVIII – Johannes Brahms – 0.51
  26. Variation XVIX – Johannes Brahms – 0.54
  27. Variation XX – Johannes Brahms – 1.44
  28. Variation XXI – Johannes Brahms – 0.49
  29. Variation XXII – Johannes Brahms – 0.53
  30. Variation XXIII – Johannes Brahms – 0.39
  31. Variation XXIV – Johannes Brahms – 0.38
  32. Variation XXV – Johannes Brahms – 0.44
  33. Fuga – Johannes Brahms – 5.32

International Piano Magazine

When the baritone Nelson Eddy sang a recruiting anthem in search of ‘Stout-hearted Men’ in the MGM Hollywood musical New Moon, he might have had the Ilford-born British pianist John Lill (b.1944) in mind. With a massive discography on the EMI, ASV, Pickwick, Chandlos, Conifer, Nimbus and DG labels, Lill is nothing if not a dauntless, indefatigable workhorse. In 2000 Lill achieved unsought-after fame when he was mugged in London on his way home to Hampstead after playing a birthday concert for the Queen Mother. Although Lill’s hands were slashed, he recovered and resumed his career. The present CD was recorded some seven months before the attack, with Lill in typically energetic, expansive form. The clear-sounding recording was made in The Old Market, Hove, an arts centre and concert hall today which in past times served as a stable and bacon smokery – details that surely would have amused the earthy Brahms. The highlights of this recital are the softer, more meditative parts of the Brahms Intermezzi and Handel Variations, rather than the many extroverted, punchy passages. Lill gives the opening aria of the Handel Variations a tender and relaxed tone, tastefully eschewing any mock-Handelian veneer. His sober, deliberate, sometimes understated approach may be a legacy of his early years of study with the great poet of the keyboard, William Kempff.

Sometimes sounding more like the four-square Wilhelm Backhaus than the ethereal Kempff, Lill’s version of Schumann’s Fantasy can seem heavy and dogged at times, until the final slow movement achieves admirable seriousness. Still, Lill does not quite achieve the cosmic transcendence of pianists such as Richard Goode, Murray Perahia and András Schiff in this repertory today. Collectors will note that Lill re-recorded Schumann’s Fantasy in 2003 as part of an all-Schumann program (Classics for Pleasure CFP 5858992). There is enough searching, stout-hearted Brahms in the present release to make both CDs essential listening for Lill’s many fans.

Benjamin Ivry

 International Piano

Lill allows the music to emerge gloriously free of extra-musical association with intellectual clarity to have one listening to those glorious works afresh. A recording truly worthy of celebration.

Simon Hodges

 Musical Opinion

I can think of at least two reasons why this CD is and attractive purchase. John Lill is one of the world’s finest interpreters of both Schumann and Brahms.

He opens Schumann’s evergreen Fantasie with magisterial power before recreating this far from simple musical edifice as though there were no problems to its projection. Here is one of those rare accounts of a masterpiece from a composer who knows exactly what he wants and almost manages to put it down, by a player who knows exactly what is needed and delights in communicating it.

The three Opus 117 Intermezzi are delightfully serious while the great series of 25 Variations, culminating in a Fugue which would have greatly pleased Handel himself, remains one of the greatest keyboard works in the repertory.

I really hope that this release is soon to be followed by more from John Lill, surely among the giants of English musicians

 

Denby Richards

 International Record Review

Rather oddly, John Lill is partly in competition here with himself. The present release, on Signum, was recorded in 2000 and appears to have been intended for a label that did not survive long enough to issue it. This is; I think, its first appearance. But then, in December 2003, Tony Faulkner’s Green Room Productions recorded this pianist in one of the works again, the Schumann Fantasie in C. It was licensed to Classics for Pleasure and issued in 2004. (There, the couplings are two more Schumann works.) Differences between the two performaces of this Everest among piano works are minimal, but I have to say I marginally prefer the piano sound on the Signum disc: the CfP version, amde in London’s Henry Wood Hall, where the acoustic comes across as vibrantly alove and seems in particular to encourage Lill to open up where appropriate in the grand manner. The great climaxes in the Schumann ring out magnificently – yet not for a moment are the terrifying details and difficulties of (say) the headlong second-movement Scherzo masked; nor is there any shortage of poetry in the final pages of the first movement, complete with its most poignant Beethoven quotation, or in the wondrous C major of the end. Lill’s control here, intellectual, emotional, technical, is complete.

A change of composer brings a reflective interlude, almost in the shape of Brahms’s late Intermezzos, Op. 117: playing, now, of deep gravity and sonorous reflection. absolutely not sentimentalized. And the, capping everything, more Brahms, a towering, granite-like performance of the Handel Variations. I puts the three listed above in the remote shade: Emanuel Ax, in 1991, comes across as a speed merchant, Seta Tanyel as lacking in sheer power and the classic Julius Katchen, for all his pearly articulation and fabulous control, now sounding rather dry and tired. Listen instead to Lill for his scrupulo9us rhythm at the start, the firmly articulated bass line, for the sheer strength he achieves at the risoluto in Variation 4, or the young-old ambiguity, hinting at those much later Fantasies, he finds in Variation 9, poco sostenuto, The quiet fantasy of Variation 12, the dark, brooding quality of its successor, then the dynamic force of Variations 14 and 15, trills precisely articulated – all this is marvellously and seemingly spontaneously realised, and has a huge cumulative effect too: near the end the tension almost overflows, before the final fugue. This is taken marginally slower than by some others, but the overall effect is tumultuous. It might almost be the old lion himself at the keyboard. What more can one say?

Piers Burton-Page

Musical Opinion

I can think of two reasons why this CD is an attractive purchase. John Lill is one of the world’s finest interpreters of both Schumann and Brahms. He opens Schumann’s ever-green Fantasie with magisterial power before recreating this simple musical edifice as though there were no problems in its projection. Here is one of those rare accounts of a masterpiece from a composer who knows exactly what he wants and almost manages to put it down, by a player who knows exactly what is needed and delights in communicating it. 

The three Opus 117 Intermezzi delightfully serious while the great series of 25 Variations, culminating in a Fugue which would have greatly pleased Handel himself, remains one of the greatest keyboard works in the repertory. I really hope this release is soon to be followed by more from John Lill, surely among the giants of English musicians.

Denby Richards

 Classic FM

EMI’s disc of Lill’s Schumann Fantasie was released a couple of years ago, quirkily issued simultaneously on LP. This is an earlier (2000) recording of the same work receiving its first release. It is preferable in every way – sound, conception and performance – one of the noblest accounts on disc, despite some over stressed passages in the last movement. After Brahm’s three autumnal Intermezzi, Lill launches into Brahm’s mighty Handel Variations. He again he is on top form, with playing of compelling conviction topped off with a magnificent final fugue.

Jeremy Nicolas

 The Glasgow Herald

He is one of the greatest pianist alive today. Across the board, I do not know another pianist who could hold a candle to this magisterial keyboard player. Unsurpassed playing. An intellectual giant and master craftsman. Beyond Words.

 

Michael Tumelty