The Long 17th Century: A Cornucopia of Early Keyboard Music / Pienaar

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The ever-inquisitive pianist Daniel-Ben Pienaar presents The Long 17th Century: A Cornucopia of Early Keyboard Music. The Long 17th Century refers to the period from...

The ever-inquisitive pianist Daniel-Ben Pienaar presents The Long 17th Century: A Cornucopia of Early Keyboard Music. The Long 17th Century refers to the period from the late 1500s to the early 1700s, an era noted for forward-thinking individuality and invention in all areas of life. This two-and-a-half hour recital surveys a pan-European variety of styles, genres and techniques, and comprises 36 works, each by a different composer, many not recorded before on a modern piano. Daniel-Ben Pienaar has been critically acclaimed for his previous albums on Avie: “a gloriously multi-faceted opus maximus ... Amazing and very much worth hearing” –Der Spiegel(on Beethoven’s Complete Piano Sonatas, AV2320) “dizzying virtuosity ... fresh, spontaneous, original readings that shed new light on the keyboard player’s Bible” –BBC Music Magazine (on J. S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, AV2299)


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.

– (10/10; Jed Distler)


What makes it work is not just the dazzling precision and clarity of Pienaar’s finger technique (though that is certainly a vital factor), but the intelligence that has gone into his interpretations. He also communicates an individual and convincing vision for each piece, enough for every one of them to give delight.


–Gramophone (Editor's Choice; June 2020)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: February 07, 2020

  • UPC: 822252241525

  • Catalog Number: AV2415

  • Label: AVIE Records

  • Number of Discs: 2