- Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178 (LW A179)
- Piano Sonata in B flat minor
Franz Liszt was an international star, and echoes of his music can be heard even in that of a composer as temperamentally dissimilar as Grieg. He also had closer acolytes. One of his favorites was Julius Reubke, who died at the age of 24. The close comparison between master and student heard on his disc has apparently never been recorded before: Reubke's "Piano Sonata in B flat minor" was not just inspired by Liszt's B minor sonata, but is closely modeled on it, with the same outline of sonata form splayed across histrionic free-form episodes. The pressure was on Reubke to meet or exceed the technical fireworks of Liszt's brooding, rather Beethovenian sonata, and in this goal he succeeded: the sonata doesn't take long to crank up keyboard-spanning two-handed figuration that has the added benefit of pushing the tonality in spots to a point it would take Liszt himself a couple more decades to achieve. British pianist Anthony Hewitt has the chops to make something genuinely exciting of this still little-known work, and listeners interested in Liszt and his orbit ought to snap this up. As for the performance of the Liszt itself, it's a matter of taste. Hewitt reads the monumental lurches of the main thematic material as a kind of nervous pacing. The Reubke sonata, for all its close imitation of Liszt, lacks the larger-than-life quality that is the essence of Liszt's music, and in this rendering, the Liszt sonata lacks some of it too. It's still, however, a stimulating and intriguing effort.