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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Peter Hill’s account of the Berg Sonata on Naxos has more than just its bargain price to commend it. He is a pianist of proven intelligence and sensitivity and is decently recorded. It comes with the Schoenberg piano music, played with no less expertise and authority.

Penguin Guide, January 2009

Peter Hill may not challenge Pollini’s magisterial survey of the Schoenberg canon (currently withdrawn) but his is highly intelligent, thoughtful playing, acutely sensitive to dynamic and tonal shading. In some ways he is more persuasive than Pollini in that one feels more completely drawn into his musical world. In any event, given the low price tag and the high quality of the recorded sound, this is self-recommending.

Penguin Guide, January 2009

The Variations, Op. 27 Webern’s only mature piano piece, dates from the mid-1930s and calls for the most eloquent playing if it is to persuade the listener. Webern himself stressed that e music’s structural intricacies must give rise to a ‘profound expressiveness’. They are very impressive in Pollini’s hands and make a well-chosen bonus for his coverage of Schoenberg’s piano music. However, Peter Hill can hold his own against any of the competition.

Edward Dorell
New Straits Times (Malaysia), December 2001

"IT is amazing that no one thought of issuing the complete piano solo works of the Second Viennese School of composers on one CD till Naxos came out with this disc in 1999.

For the total works of Schoenberg, played at the slowest speeds (as here), last just under an hour, and the single works of Berg and Webern together only 20 minutes. A big cheer then for Naxos' enterprise and generosity.

Of the three composers Berg, for his Romantic warmth, has always been the most accessible and popular. Not, however, in his official opus 1, the least attractive piece on this disc.

The culmination and only completed of six student attempts at composing a sonata form movement, his Sonata is a Mahler-fevered but nevertheless cerebral hothouse of inter-related musical cells weaving above, beneath and through each other, permeated by an angular bony beauty which listeners should at least appreciate, even if they cannot love, after a few hearings.

It is the generally colder, more clinical Schoenberg who is here far more accomplished and pleasant to the ear, precisely for his impeccable balance between form and emotion, and technique and spontaneity, his clear textures, and an Austrian lightness and wit.

Over four decades after my student years, when I first encountered them, the first two pieces of opus 11 (1909) no longer sound brutally atonal but in fact like what they have always been, meditative and dramatic late Romantic tone poems. The third piece, however, is as adventurous now as at first.

Of the initially forbidding later sets of 1920-23, the Suite for Piano, op. 25 is a fascinating Baroque-structured set of dances and pieces in Schoenberg's newly-discovered serial mode, its opening Prludium a breathless toccata, the middle Intermezzo an intense slow movement, and the three dances, Gavotte, Menuett and Gigue, graceful, humorous and spirited through and through.

As for the Five Piano Pieces, op. 23, they are surely the culmination of Schoenberg's writing for the piano, the quiet opening three-part invention and shimmering nocturne and Waltz (nos. 3 and 5) alternating with explosive (no. 2) and whimsical (no. 4) scherzi.

Finally, in Webern's Variations, op. 27 we have totally concentrated serial music that is not at all difficult to understand, since the sparsely noted theme and variations are easily identified, their diamond-like precision and glitter an impressive climax to the Second Viennese School's oeuvre for piano solo.

Quoting two of Webern's pupils in his brochure note, that the composer stressed his Variations 'structural intricacies must give rise to a profound expressiveness' in performance, Peter Hill applies the same principle to his Berg and Schoenberg interpretations.

Played this way, his Berg sonata is certainly more delicate, though not necessarily more attractive, than, say, Jean-Jacques Dunki's forthright account (on Jecklin-disco JD 643-2), which includes some of the earlier sonata fragments (reviewed by me on Oct 6, 1999).

But his Webern is absolutely magnificent, the only way henceforth to play it, compared to which Charles Rosen's in the complete Webern works on Sony Classical SM3K 45845-3CDs (reviewed on April 5 last year) now sounds pedestrian.

Applied to Schoenberg, Hill's Debussy-soft and slowest tempi bring out the full magic of the quiet opus 23 pieces as also the opus 25 dances and the two final concert works, opus 33 A and B.

And surely no stronger advocate can be found for the notorious Six Little Piano Pieces, op. 19 to convince those who consider them mere hoaxes that each is marvellously, in Schoenberg's own description of Webern's Six Bagatelles, op. 9, 'a novel in a single gesture'...given its bargain price and the extra Berg and Webern, buyers should opt for the Naxos disc."

Alex Ross
The New Yorker, July 2000

"For seven dollars, you can learn the basics of the music of the Second Viennese school, in performances that are exceptional for their clarity and grace."

Calum MacDonald
Hi-Fi News & Record Review, November 1999

"...the really important feature of this disc is the insight and musicianship of Hill's performances. Had this been a full-price disc it would still be my first recommendation in this repertoire, and at bargain price it's unbeatable."

David J. Fanning
Gramophone, October 1999

"These are scrupulously prepared performances, with all the polyphonic strands clarified and all the myriad articulation marks respected... Time and again, Hill's thoughtfulness and search for expressiveness and beauty of sound justifies his spacious approach... Hill probes [Schoenberg] with subtlety, sympathy and high intelligence.

In the Berg Sonata, Hill's unforced lyricism, inwardness and flexibility of phrasing are again immensely appealing.

Apart from its amazing value for money, Naxos's first-rate recording quality, Peter hill's own lucid booklet-essay, and what sounds like an ideally regulated instrument, all contribute to the outstanding success of the new issue."

Paul Driver
, August 1999

...a stisfying, scintillating disc as played by Peter Hill, who also contributes an acute booklet essay. Berg's one-movement sonata, Op.1, in a poised reading that brings out the music? sudden swagger but lingers over its perfume, provides a symbolist gateway to the expressionist, eventually 12-tone idioms of his teacher, Schoenberg.

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