Jill Crossland Recital – Wigmore Hall (9 January)

English Suite in A minor, BWV 807
Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 903
Chaconne in G
Variations on “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman”, K265
Sonata in F, K332

Jill Crossland (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 9 January, 2004
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Not for Jill Crossland a constant round of aeroplanes, hotels and concerts hall, with repertoire learnt and rendered by numbers, and hype and believing-it audiences providing an instant ’good review’. Rather hers has been a climb that catches the imagination, one spread by word of mouth, with public appearances that become events, and with equally occasional CDs to add permanency.

Crossland marries head and heart in her interpretations, and her responses are not dulled by over-exposure. Bach is her signature composer. The opening movement of the English Suite was a tad nervy, yet those moments of inner connection, when Crossland bows her head towards the keyboard, communing with it almost, the dynamics dropping confidentially, remain as distinctive as ever. Hers is Romantic Bach, there is a real emotional core, yet the line isn’t twisted for demonstrative effect; rather there’s a warmth of expression that lifts this music out of the museum. This is best heard in the slow movements, for in quicker ones, despite fine balance between the hands, Crossland’s concern for clarity sometimes causes notes to be snatched and some others given undue emphasis, which maybe hairsbreadth-slower tempos might alleviate. The concluding Gigue certainly raised the spirits.

The Fantasy, for all that the whirl of notes was successfully negotiated, never quite took off; it should be something unstoppable, the feeling that the keyboard is being set alight. The Fugue, however, was splendidly built at a well-sustained moderate tempo.

The Handel, and Mozart variations, were given superb realisations, the former with an almost Brahmsian amplitude and with satisfying architectural sense, the music’s bravura and pathos given equal billing. Mozart’s commentaries, effectively on “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”, might be considered slight, but Crossland opened them up, not least when grief intervenes, and revealed Mozart’s sustained individuality in no uncertain terms. Impressive.

The Mozart sonata was less convincing in terms of conception. The first movement would have enjoyed a more moderate tempo, and there were a few examples of infelicity – the odd moment of jerky pulse and some rather brusque, certainly too loud left-hand punctuation towards the end of the (repeated) exposition. The finale had well-placed brilliance and characterisation, although some downward tempo adjustments only served to halt the flow. The Adagio, however, was sublime, deeply expressive and rapt – a very special ’Crossland moment’.

A brief encore, the D minor Prelude from Book 1 of “The 48”, divorced from its Fugue, was a tasty preview of Crossland’s forthcoming recording of the first 24 Preludes and Fugues, believed to be waiting in the wings, and which is keenly anticipated in the wake of her stimulating and individual account of the Goldberg Variations.

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