Reicha premiere

When pianist Ivan Ilić approached me with news that he was learning a recently discovered piece by Beethoven’s friend and musical rival Anton Reicha, I jumped at the chance to commission a world premiere recording for Sinfini Music.

ivan screengrab

Sinfini Music is proud to present Ivan Ilić’s world premiere recording of Anton Reicha’s Capriccio, composed in around 1800. Here, Ilić explains how he first encountered the 200-years-young music of the Czech composer, a contemporary of Beethoven whose music, he believes, has been neglected for too long.

When I was a first year college student, I often got lost in the music library. It was always easier to find works by the famous composers, because there were multiple copies of their works. But after a few hours of slogging away at the famous pieces, I’d spend the last 20 minutes or so reading through strange, other works from the shelves.

Often these other works had elements in common with my favorites – Haydn, Liszt and Prokofiev. But there was always something ‘funky’ about them: to my ears, they didn’t sound quite right, and I was smug in my dismissals. ‘Anybody could tell that this stuff isn’t as good as the famous stuff’, I thought.

A few years later, though, my repertoire choices started to get more unpredictable. From Debussy, I went to Godowsky’s notoriously fiendish arrangements of Chopin for the left hand, and from there on to Morton Feldman. I’m at a point now where if my next move is not a surprise to me, then I don’t pursue it. When it’s the right move, I can feel it in the tiny hairs on my ears.

About a year ago, I started developing a tentative interest in Anton Reicha, a Czech composer who was a friend of Beethoven. I had heard rumours of his 36 experimental fugues years before, but it wasn’t until I downloaded a PDF of the score online and read them at the piano that my eyes popped out (and yes, the tiny ear hairs perked up). In a manic rush, I recorded six of the fugues.

A few months later, the musicologist Michael Bulley contacted me with information about further unpublished works by Reicha that were due to be printed by Editions Symétrie in France, including Capriccio. All of a sudden, I had more Reicha than I could handle: a stack of major works by a composer whose friends included Beethoven and Haydn and whose students included Liszt, Berlioz and Franck. Most of his piano works have never been played, although they were written over 200 years ago.

I’m excited to present the world premiere recording of Reicha’s Capriccio, filmed in London by Sinfini Music. It may be the first time that this music has been heard since Reicha’s own lifetime.

Director: Federico Urdaneta

Producer: Natalia Guarín

With thanks to Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance for their kind loan of the Peacock Room for the filming of this Sinfini Session in August 2015.

This content was first published on Sinfini Music, reproduced with permission, Universal Music © 2015