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McNulty 'Walter 1790', Blüthner 1905 - Rokni

McNulty 'Walter 1790', Blüthner 1905 - Rokni

Ars Produktion  ARS 38 297

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental


W.F. Bach: Fantasie in A minor*
C.P.E. Bach: Arioso and Variations*
Beethoven: 10 Variations*
J.S. Bach: Suite in F minor**, Aria Variata**
Schoenberg: Suite**

Arash Rokni (McNulty 'Walter 1790'*, Blüthner 1905**)

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - November 8, 2019

Taste the best; the stars of tomorrow.

On the initiative of the Association of Friends and Supporters of the Hochschule für Musik und Tantz Köln, e.V., The Cologne University of Music and the West German Radio (WDR) have partnered with ARS Produktion for the production of a SACD to give promising talents a quick-start for their careers. Most praiseworthy, as it is, for young and coming talent, extremely difficult to get a place under the sun. One of these talents, the Iranian pianist, Arash Rokni, last year’s ‘Taste the Best Prize’ winner, awarded by a jury of the Cologne University of Music, gives proof what he is capable of in this ARS Produktion Super Audio release,

To state his case, Rokni has chosen to play on two different pianos. During his studies in Cologne, he has devoted much of his time to the fortepiano. So, for the first part of his recital, W.F. Bach’s Fantasie F23 and C.P.E Bach, Variations Wq 118/10 and the set of 10 Beethoven variations WoO.73, all rarely played or recorded, he has opted for a Paul McNulty copy of a Walter 1790. For the remainder of his recital, including J.S. Bach’s Suite BWV 823 and Aria BWV 989, a warm sounding Blüthner, 1905. Reasons are explained in his personnel notes, to which I may refer for brevity.

As far as his selection of Bach is concerned, the recital makes abundantly clear that his Second and Public’s Price at the 2018 Johann Sebastian Bach Competition, Leipzig, Germany, was not by accident. Not only has he an impressive grasp on the subject matter, but he also shows a profound understanding of - for the non-initiated often difficult to identify - nuances between Bach, father and sons, especially in regard to the more classical style of Carl Philip Emanuel Bach.

Many think of Beethoven as someone being impatient, angry, even, according to some, jealous and, of course, brilliant. All true, taking into account personal circumstances. But he was not only brilliant in complexities, but also in many ‘simplicities’ like his Scottish and other folk songs, the variations on ‘Ich bin der Schneider Kakadu’ and his 7 cello variations 'Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen'. As Rokni sees it: “One of the most humorous composers of all time”.

And then there is the case of the piano. Numerous people believe that the piano for playing Beethoven must be as Grand as the composer. He must have loved disposing of a Steinway in his time, but a visit to his place of birth, the Beethoven Haus in Bonn, clearly shows what he did have. Ronald Brautigam on BIS (and others) demonstrated how convincing Beethoven’s Sonatas and Piano Concerti sound on a well-tuned fortepiano. And Rokni does a similar thing in Beethoven’s ‘Aria variata alla manieria Italiana’. How humorous this is, I’ll leave that judgement to the listener, but it surely is well played with admirable ‘flexible finger work’.

In his notes, Rokni asks himself: “What do I want to portray as a concept? How perfect should the sculpture of a face be that really does not belong to me? Or rather what should “I” present from the scores written by others? And what is my hammer and chisel for making this sculpture?” Rhetorical questions? Maybe not. Listening to Schönberg an awareness came upon me that I was, indeed, listening to a carefully sculptured Suite Op. 25, displaying a cool, almost cold picture, carved out in clear lines, making a for many, even until this very day, difficult to understand composer distinctly ‘visible’. A well-chosen end to a recital reaching from one ‘innovator’ to another, from Bach’s groundwork of tonal music to Schönberg’s conception of dodecaphony (in plain words: atonal), and to square the seemingly impossible circle, the five movements of his Suite relate to Bach’s baroque principles.

I think that Arash Rokni, with this debut, has given ample proof of being able to pursue a successful career and I wish him well in his endeavour.

Blangy-le-Chäteau,
Normandy, France

Copyright © 2019 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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