Prague-born Antonín Reicha (1770-1836) moved to Paris in 1799 and became a French citizen, thereafter he was generally known as Antoine. This is the second volume of Chandos’s Reicha Rediscovered series with Ivan Ilić; the first featured music from between 1803 and 1805 and the two Piano Sonatas give interesting evidence of Reicha’s individual approach to compositional construction. This current issue gathers music mostly from 1815-17 and features the first thirteen of the Studies in Fugal Style, “For the Use of Young Composers”. These Études take the form of a prelude and fugue. Each of the former finds Reicha writing miniatures that greatly vary in mood and style, and presumably the fugues are intended mainly for academic study but each has melodic and tonal links to its relation. Variation form appeals to Reicha, notably so in the commencing section of III where the melody consists of four brief phrases followed by twelve variations and a coda, and similarly Étude IX includes a complex if concise group of them. There is a surprising link to Ilić’s first Reicha collection in which the brief final item was the Étude that also begins Opus 97. It is in a style involving unusual hesitations – an element to be found in Reicha’s music. Ilić plays it expressively and as a companion to the bright fugue it makes good sense.
The thirteen-part sequence of academically-inclined compositions might seem daunting but it is all very listenable. Tempo and style vary widely, and occasionally Reicha is disarmingly basic, with the simplest of minuets, for example. The bonus (very short) Fugue, from Opus 36, may have been chosen by Ilić because of its quaintness. It starts in A, ends in G, and is full of harmonic swerves and unexpected pauses – a study in quirkiness. I’m sure Reicha enjoyed providing audiences with light-hearted moments.
Chandos’s sound quality is pleasingly natural and there is both richness and clarity, every detail brought out, aided, I feel, by the pianist’s economical use of the sustaining pedal.