Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Pianist Jean Muller shows himself to be a poet, colourist, architect and virtuoso on a new release of works by Liszt from JCH Productions

Born in Luxembourg, pianist, Jean Muller www.pianistjm.com has an impressive CV, studying at the Riga Academy of Music with Teofils Bikis and in the piano classes of Evgeny Mogilevsky, Gerhard Oppitz, Eugen Indjic and Michael Schäfer in Brussels, Paris and Munich.

Muller has gone on to receive guidance from Anne Queffélec, Leon Fleischer, Janos Starker and Fou T’song. He has been awarded no less than twelve first prizes at International Competitions including the Concours Francis Poulenc in France. In 2007 he was made Chevalier de l’Ordre de Merite Civil et Militaire d’Adolphe de Nassau.

Muller has since given concerts in Europe, Asia and the USA including at venues such as Carnegie Hall, New York and the Musikverein in Vienna. His recordings have been received enthusiastically with a Gramophone Critic’s Choice, International Piano Choice and Coup de Coeur from Piano Magazine.

Now JCH Productions have issued a new recording byJean Muller of Liszt’s Mephisto Valse No.1 and Études d'exécution transcendante. www.pianistjm.com/#!discography/c1y3b   www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dclassical&field-keywords=jean+muller

JCH 2014/01

First on this disc is Liszt’s Méphisto Valse No.1 S.514 in an arrangement by Ferrucio Busoni and Vladimir Horowitz. The names Liszt, Busoni and Horowitz are enough to strike fear into any but the most accomplished pianists but Jean Muller is more than up to the task. Right from the beginning his crisp articulation, sprung rhythms, fine phrasing and, of course, fine technique bring delight and admiration at every turn. He is not without poetry as the quieter, reflective moments clearly show. In some of the trills and decorations he points forward to Scriabin, something I’d not heard before, bringing a deeper feel to the piece. By any standards this is a very fine performance and setting the scene admirably for the Etudes d’Execution Transcendante S.139 that follow.

Étude No.1, Preludio reveals all of Muller’s technical strengths as does Étude No. 2, Molto vivace where he brings vivacious playing, fast yet never lacking clarity and fine phrasing.

An oasis of calm arrives with Étude No. 3, Paysage, beautifully paced and phrased with, as it develops, subtle colouring of textures. There are phenomenal chords and scales in Étude No. 4, Mazeppa, played with the utmost clarity and sense of structure with Muller bringing a tense lyricism to the quieter moments with a fine sense of completion in the coda.

Muller’s fine touch is shown particularly well in Étude No. 5, Feux Follets as is his fine rubato, beautifully done with many fine touches. He builds the layers of drama so well in Étude No. 6, Vision, often easing back in the lyrical, rippling passages before building the textures knowing just when to ease the tension.

With Étude No. 7, Eroica, Muller doesn’t lose sight of the varied nature of Liszt’s creation, retaining poetry and finesse, yet here is some of the most phenomenal playing you could wish for. It is Muller’s ability to colour and phrase his music so well that brings out so much of Liszt’s descriptive power in Étude No. 8, Wilde Jagd with so many little details – a glorious Etude.

Étude No. 9, Ricordanza brings together so many of Muller’s qualities as he subtly builds the music with lovely, sensitive passages and fine silken touch in this beautifully shaped performance. Étude No. 10, Allegro agitato molto again shows Muller’s fine touch and phrasing, with his sense of poetry to the fore.  

Muller gives us a beautifully conceived Étude No. 11, Harmonies du Soir, full of poetry, lovely textures and colours and a natural rise and fall in dynamics. He brings some wonderful touches to Étude No. 12, Chasse-neige with rippling phrases, beautifully controlled, bringing a formidable conclusion to this disc.

Muller shows himself to be a poet, colourist, architect and virtuoso. It is a joy to hear him lay out the structure of these works with such clarity.

There is an excellent recording from the Philharmonie, Luxembourg. Indeed this is an especially well produced disc with the right amount of time allowed between tracks, something that producers don’t always think about. The informative booklet notes are by Jean Muller.

Jean Muller will be performing this exact Liszt programme at London’s Cadogan Hall www.cadoganhall.com/whats-on/2014/10/27 on Monday 27th October 2014, the first date in a world tour. In advance of this he is scheduled to appear on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune on Tuesday 14th October.

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