Jill Crossland

English Suite in G minor, BWV808
Das wohltemperierte Klavier – Book 1: Prelude & Fugue in C minor, BWV847; Prelude & Fugue in D, BWV850; Prelude & Fugue in D minor, BWV851; Book 2: Prelude & Fugue in D minor, BWV875
Toccata in D, BWV912
Suite in E (from Nouvelles pièces de clavecin)
Sonata in C, K330

Jill Crossland (piano)

Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey

Reviewed: 5 December, 2004
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

I confess to a certain degree of frustration over this sparsely attended concert. Jill Crossland is a really fine musician and the Wigmore Hall is a prime location that has a good reputation for nurturing upcoming talent. No young player can turn down the opportunity of playing there. However, to programme a little-known artist in the run up to Christmas at 5 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon in a concert of Bach and Rameau followed by a less than great Mozart sonata seems inadvisable.

Artists, their management, and also Wigmore Hall, have a duty of care to shape programming and ensure best exposure. Had András Schiff or Murray Perahia played this programme, the hall would doubtless have been full (though even they would have probably played at least one major work in the second half). In this instance one did not need to be a seer to realise that this programme and its timing would do the artist few favours, which was a real pity.

Crossland’s Bach was notable for the propulsive clarity of the part writing. Particularly striking were the Preludes from the ‘48’, which were despatched with plenty of punch and also light and shade. Occasionally Crossland can lapse into too slow tempos (the English Suite’s ‘Sarabande’ hardly sounded like a dance) and be over-forceful – she uses the full resources of the piano. But for the most part her playing has sturdiness and vigour and is a fine antidote to the etiolated and precious Bach one sometimes hears from other pianists. The joyous concluding ‘gigues’ of the Suite and Toccata sounded exuberantly and robustly Handelian.

Rameau and Bach were more or less exact contemporaries, born within two years of each other and dying within ten. However, the rococo-encrusted decoration with which Rameau drapes his music, even in those same dance forms he shares with Bach, seem worlds away from the latter’s earnest vigour. Crossland played this decorative music with evident affection, especially the famous ‘Le Rappel des Oiseaux’, and in the ‘Musette’ she managed to touch an altogether deeper vein of elegant melancholy.

The Mozart sonata is also in rococo vein and Crossland played it elegantly, subtly varying both the first movement repeat and the reprise of the Andante cantabile (whose tempo was however decidedly slow for the unsettled minor key section to register fully). The agreeable but inconsequential rondo finale was nicely turned. Ultimately though one craved for something a little more substantial.

In future it would be good to hear Crossland in a programme which steps outside of the 18th-century ghetto: she is in danger of becoming typecast in her current repertoire. Maybe BBC Radio 3 could invite Crossland to give a lunchtime Wigmore recital or a chamber Prom in the Victoria and Albert?

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