From 1989 to the present day Peter Froundijan’s Schloss vor Husum Festival has challenged convention and celebrated the unique richness and diversity of the piano repertoire; and, more particularly, its most delectable byways and diversions. Here, pianists can forget all commercial considerations, let their hair down and delight their audiences with one novelty after another. Try Bernard Ringeissen, for example, in Poulenc’s Pastourelle where a chic flirtation with jazz turns into the real thing, or Marc-Andre Hamelin, spinning and cavorting his way through Thalberg’s Fantasy on Themes from “Don Pasquale” with an insouciance that subdues even the most outlandish difficulties. More remarkably still he offers his own arrangement of Chopin’s A minor Etudes, where, with unstinting generosity, legerdemain and sang-froid he gives us three rather than merely two studies for the price of one. In Gieseking’s foxtrot, Schorschi-Batschi the same dazzling pianist tells us that a supreme colorist of the keyboard can also compose an uproarious and ribald joke. Eduard Erdmann’s Foxtrot, too, defies all expectations. A powerful and hypnotic tribute to the Berlin of the 1920s, its potent mix of wit, exultance and despair is superbly caught by steel-fingered Sontraud Speidel. More amiably, Stephen Hough enchants in Stephen Reynold’s tribute to Delius, a true Primavera with a premiere matin du monde magic.
On a larger scale Benedikt Koehlen’s performance of the Janacek Sonata is as trenchant and imposing as any on record, while Hamish Milne plays the Liszt-Busoni Ad nos, ad salutarem undam transcription with a magisterial command and conviction that few could equal. Franck-Zhukov is a far cry from Franck-Bauer and the Prelude, fugue et variation is sumptuously rich and incense-laden, particularly in Igor Zhukov’s imperious hands. Less piously, who can resist Abbey Simon’s slinky, soft-shoe shuffle through the Albeniz-Godowsky Triana. Like Bolet and Cherkassky, Simon came from a time when such naughty intricacy was taken as a matter of course.
An indispensable set of discs, then, for all lovers of the unfamiliar, though this jackdaw’s nest of trinkets is interlaced with several more established masterpieces. The recordings, made live during the concerts, are surprisingly successful.'