Well Played Cramer Etudes (but was this release really needed?)

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 8

Before Chopin’s Etudes there were Clementi’s teaching pieces collectively known as Gradus ad Parnassum. And before Clementi, pianists struggled with Johann Baptist Cramer’s 84 Etudes, originally published between 1804 and 1808. Cramer published the original complete 84 Etudes in two books: the first in 1804 for Breitkopf & Härtel of Leipzig, and the second sometime between 1807 and 1808.

Although Cramer’s etudes primarily are didactic in purpose, they have genuine musical value. Grand Piano issued a complete Cramer Etudes cycle dividing the chores among Gianluca Luisi, Alessandro Deljavan, and Giampaolo Stuani, tossing in Busoni’s Etudes after Cramer for good measure. That is the Cramer Etude edition to own (John Khouri’s complete cycle using a period instrument is out-of-print and expensive to source).

By contrast, Giorgio Farina plays Hans von Bülow’s selection of 60 Cramer Etudes published around 1889. Bülow’s ordering has nothing to do with Cramer. Not that it matters. Farina’s authoritative mastery yields nothing to his Grand Piano colleagues. He has fingers and expressivity to boot, although Bongiovanni’s sonics are less alluring. But here’s the question: why settle for 60 Cramer etudes here, when you can acquire all 84 plus the Busoni in comparable performances with better sound from Grand Piano? Who cares about Hans von Bülow’s fingerings besides piano students? This is not to disparage Farina’s obvious capabilities and hard work. Then again, does anyone really want to spend time comparing Cramer etude interpretations back to back, except for compulsive piano nerd critics like myself? Was this release really needed?

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Complete Cramer Etudes (Grand Piano)

  • Giorgio Farina (piano)

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