Daniel-Ben Pienaar Scintillates In The 17th Century

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

Have you noticed the growing trend of pianists taking up 17th-century keyboard works on the modern concert grand? Perhaps it has to do with the desire to be rebellious, or to attain a certain level of intellectual caché. Yet pianists also have valid artistic reasons to explore this repertoire. First and foremost are the sheer musical rewards. Secondly, the freedom one has in regard to phrasing, tempo, and embellishment can be liberating and creatively stimulating. For this remarkable two-disc collection, Daniel-Ben Pienaar has chosen 36 17th-century keyboard works, each by a different composer. He brilliantly reveals how a piano’s dynamic scope, timbral diversity, and sustaining capabilities can vividly and meaningfully serve this repertoire.

One noticeable example is in Tarquino Merula’s Capriccio cromatico, where the ascending legato chromatic lines and detaché counterline with repeated notes take on distinctive characters. The Weckmann D minor Canzon’s virtuosic repeated notes gain color and drama through pianistic inflection, and via Pienaar’s dapper fingerwork, of course. Terraced dynamics and half-tints of pedal evoke trumpets and winds in Gabrieli’s joyous Canzon quarta.

What bracing trills and hair-trigger scale passages Pienaar delivers throughout Muffat’s Partita IV, while serving up a more unified and colorfully contrasted reading of Buxtehude’s large-scale “La Capricciosa” Variations than most period performers manage to do. And while Pienaar allows for pockets of space or “air” between the notes in Keril’s Passacaglia, he manages to shape the sounds and silences into long-lined entities. I encourage listeners to discover their own favorite works and magic moments across this intelligently programmed, splendidly engineered, and boundlessly satisfying release.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: The Long 17th Century: A Cornucopia of Early Keyboard Music
Reference Recording: None for this collection

Works by Picchi, Merula, Arauso, Weckmann, Macedo, Bruna, Gabrieli, Louis Couperin, Ferrabosco I, Frescobaldi, Trabaci, Radino, Philips, Locke, Tindale, Schildt, Muffat, Froberger, Chambonnières, Jacquet de La Guerre, Tomkins, Coprario, Farnaby, Scheidemann, Keril, Sweelinck, Cabanilles, Byrd, Bull, Buxtehude, Praetorius, Kuhnau, Braga, Pasquini, Le Roux, & D’Anglebert

  • Daniel-Ben Pienaar (piano)

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