Bach: English Suite No. 3 - Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 23 - Schumann: Etudes symphoniques
Little would be gained by describing yet again the exceptional standing of a pianist like Rudolf Buchbinder, who day in, day out has confirmed his command of his instrument over a period of several decades. Suffice it to say that he is capable of demonstrating this imperturbability even at a recital that encompasses several different periods of music, as he did at his piano recital at the 2004 Salzburg Festival that is now available on CD. Buchbinder is in command of all their different forms, bringing to these works an expert's true grasp of style, a sovereign technique and an unerring ability to find his way through the fashionable manifestations of historically "correct" performing practice. Central to his 2004 recital in the Großes Festspielhaus was the "Appassionata" Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven, a composer with whose works Buchbinder has been particularly closely associated in recent years. And yet his readings of Johann Sebastian Bach's English Suite no. 3 in G minor BWV 808 and Schumann's Études symphoniques op. 13 - here supplemented by the five posthumously published variations ? reveal no less skill and thoughtfulness. As with all his appearances and recordings, Buchbinder refutes the view that virtuosity and expression are mutually exclusive and need to be reconciled. His playing is free from all exaggerated "Baroque" ornamentalism, while at the same time eschewing any attempts at a faded Romanticism. The musical development in Schumann's set of variations is as firmly grounded in clearly recognizable points of origin and cells as it is in Bach and Beethoven. Buchbinder imposes an exemplary sense of structure on these works and, where needed, also introduces clear caesuras - notably in the posthumous variations in Schumann's studies. But he can also produce such a clear and compellingly flowing line even in a relatively brief piece such as the Gigue from Bach's Partita BWV 825, which he performs as an encore, that no listener can fail to be swept along by it. We can justifiably speak of a milestone in the more recent history of the Salzburg Festival, a milestone far removed from all its traditional glamour.