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Bach/Busoni; Beethoven; J.S.Bach; Bach/Marcello

Toccata, Adagio & Fugue in C major J.S.Bach / F.Busoni
Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major, Opus 109 L.V. Beethoven
Partita No.6 in E minor, BWV 830 J.S.Bach
Adagio J.S.Bach / A.Marcello

James Rhodes
Signum SIGCD185

Listening first, without having remembered the media furore about this pianist's appearance at Round House and his first CD, first impressions (belying the cover photo) were just of a sensitive, well equipped musician.

Of special interest was the bringing together (uniquely?) of two takes on JS Bach, a massive Busoni transcription of a major organ work together with a fastidious account on modern piano of the grandest and most challenging of the keyboard partitas. Rhodes finds a convincing Steinway voice for both of them, and these are accounts to challenge the competition; his musicality and technical mastery held us with complete attention easily.

He does not shy away from masterworks and his Beethoven op. 109 will not topple your favourites, but it is a serious interpretation and is favoured by sympathetic recording ambience (Mike Hatch at Potton Hall). Extras, spoken statements of his credo and a couple of Chopin pieces on a bonus disc, fill in the background; definitely a bonus to hear him talk good sense about his late-start career so lucidly.

Whereas composer Giacinto Scelsi brought himself back to sanity by playing a single note endlessly on a clinic piano*, Rhodes did so by teaching himself Bach's Adagio from the score in a locked psychiatric ward without access to a piano - "two pages of musical notes that offered more comfort, peace and hope than any of the medication they shoved in me"... (You can see him playing this on one of several YouTube videos.) So, look at that cover photo again; the whitened face in the photo begins to make good sense...

Recommended; I look forward to catching up with Rhodes' first CD and to his future recordings.

Peter Grahame Woolf

*I visited Scelsi in Rome towards the end of his life - - he demonstrated at the piano how a nervous breakdown led to completely new thinking about music and, particularly, about sound. He showed me how he helped his own recovery in the clinic where he was being treated, by sitting at a piano day after day playing the same single note again and again, absorbing its essence and all the sounds contained within it - - [PGW]

" - - a thoughtful and attentive pianist.” Richard Whitehouse, International Piano Magazine

" - - a sensitive and imaginative artist with a lyrical gift and a bell-like keyboard touch" Classics Today

A major and extraordinary talent” Bryce Morrison