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Stephen Smoliar, April 2013

Through a new project for the Grand Piano division of Naxos, German pianist Caroline Weichert has begun to record Schulhoff’s piano compositions. The first volume in her series provides an excellent introduction to Schulhoff’s jazzy style…each movement is named for a dance form; but all of the dances are set to jazz rhythms. If this music is a bit more refined than what we might have encountered in a “Roaring Twenties” American jazz band, it still has its own breed of seductive toe-tapping qualities, shaken up a bit with the eccentricities of post-War Dadaism.

Weichert’s project brings to light a segment of the twentieth-century repertoire that has been in the shadows for too long, and this first CD in her recording project offers up some delightful listening experiences. © 2013 Read complete review

Colin Clark
International Piano, July 2012

Caroline Weichert is a magnificent pianist, and to hear Schulhoff played at this level is revelatory.

The recording is of the top rank, delivering believable presence. Fascinating repertoire, expertly performed and recorded. © 2012 International Piano

Roger Knox
The WholeNote, June 2012

Carolyn Weichert brilliantly captures the idioms of both modernism and jazz in Partita (1922) where 1920s dances replace Bach-era ones. Transcending clichés of decadent Weimar Germany, the depth and seriousness of its jazz scene during the 1920s and ‘30s are evident; I love the charm, quirky humour, fleeting pensive moments and glimpses beyond the ordinary in the Tango-Rag. Schulhoff’s harmony is never just “bi-tonal” or “wrong-note.” Weichert balances chords and brings out subtle voice-leadings in music evocative of the era and more. The Third Suite for the left hand is a work of pianistic genius. Weichert’s fingers crawl “multi-legged” over the keyboard; as her thumb sings out one of Schulhoff’s exquisite long melodies in the Air, fingers carry on a canonic invention below! After the harmonically-adventurous Improvisazione, she delivers the mixed-metres perpetual-motion Finale with flair but without bombast. © 2012 The WholeNote Read complete review

Werner Theurich
Spiegel Online, March 2012

For those interested in the chamber music and more intimate musical sides of Schulhoff, a successful recording with pianist Caroline Weichert has appeared on the newly founded piano music label Grand Piano.  She especially attends to the jazzy side of Schulhoff, and his “Partita for piano” excels as a charming piece of virtuoso. However she does not play it in a laid-back swing-like manner, but carves out the rough edges of Schulhoff’s style with a strong, crystalline tone. Even for pieces such as the “Suite No. 3 for the left hand” and the 20 minutes long “Variations on an Dorian theme”, the Conrad-Hansen student Caroline Weichert (who is now a lecturer at the Hamburg Musikhochschule) approaches confidently and accurately.  (She is) ideal for this programme because Schulhoff was not just a jazz musician, but wrestled with many influences of his time, and tried to find his feet in upheavals and contradictions, which not always succeeded. But it is exactly this fight that makes his music so exciting and modern. © 2012 Spiegel Online

Rainer Aschemeier
The Listener, March 2012

SAINT-SAENS, C.: Piano Works (Complete), Vol. 1 (Burleson) GP601
RAFF, J.: Piano Works, Vol. 1 (Tra Nguyen) GP602
WEINBERG, M.: Piano Music (Complete), Vol. 1 (Brewster Franzetti) GP603
SCHULHOFF, E.: Piano Music, Vol. 1 - Partita / Susi / Suite No. 3 / Variationen und Fugato, Op. 10 (Weichert) GP604

What would you name a label dedicated exclusively to piano music? And not just the standard repertoire, with the obligatory Beethoven Sonata cycle and all the rest, but a label that courageously exploring the less-well-known works of composers such as Camille Saint-Saens, Erwin Schulhoff, Mieczyslaw Weinberg and Joachim Raff? What name or image best describes such a label, with such a singularity of purpose, and committed exclusively to presenting the rich, varied and diverse literature written for the piano? As if to remove all doubts, the producers have clearly stated their raison d’etre in naming their new label “Grand Piano.”

Despite an increasingly competitive market, the label announced their first four releases in March 2012, begging the question “Why start another, new classical label?” Such questions are inevitable, but unlike many of their competitors, the makers of Grand Piano have two aces up their sleeves that give this young, upstart a convincing edge.

First, the label has a clear sense of mission and an unambiguous concept. It is immediately clear what you will find here and who will be their (potential) audience.

Second, someone had a passionate vision and realized it without compromise. “Grand Piano” is by no means a “get rich quick” flavor of the month in an already oversaturated market. This label hopes to make their listeners hungry (once again) for something new and unfamiliar.

And so, the Grand Piano story begins, offering us four CDs (two of which offering World Premiere recordings….) making our first meeting a memorable one! Were the cachet of presenting a few World Premieres not already enough, the label further stands its ground in offering programs that are, for most casual listeners, not the standard “crowd-pleasers.” These carefully programmed discs offer a variety that will undoubtedly appeal to the serious collector. Whether it’s Camille Saint-Saens’ virtuoso etudes, or the perpetual melancholy of Mieczyslaw Weinberg – here you will find a joyous celebration for the keyboard connoisseur… and this is just the beginning!

In this way, the Grand Piano establishes itself as a label that demands to be taken seriously. Although the repertoire at first may seem a bit obscure, there can be no doubt that the works presented here are, among the most distinctive keyboard compositions of the late 19th and early-to-mid 20th century, (a possible exception being Saint Saens, whose Belle Époque salon pieces can tend to be a bit over-ripe…).

In particular, the piano works of Schulhoff and Weinberg are more than justified in receiving a second look, both of whom shared tragic lives and equally tragic neglect after their deaths. Also included is the first CD in what promises to be the first complete recorded edition of the piano music by the Swiss composer Joachim Raff. Despite being a contemporary of both Liszt and Brahms, Raff crafted his own rather unusual musical language, sharing some similarities with the music of the young Richard Strauss while at time, sounding like early Sibelius. All in all, a rewarding discovery for the curious, who are looking for some unusual repertoire in the grand, Romantic tradition.

The same care taken with the repertoire selection can also be seen in terms of the high quality of interpretations. Together, Caroline Weichert, Tra Nguyen, Allison Brewster Franzetti and Geoffrey Burleson possess all the requisite technical skills, and musical sensibility to bring each piece to life convincingly. Here too, Grand Piano has opted not to rely on the familiar, rather, they have recruited artists, each of whom have embraced the works of their chosen composers, with a profound sense of artistic mission.

Then again, maybe it’s just the overall appearance of Grand Piano that made the all-important first impression and convinced me that this recording would be good value for the money. Unlike many label “upstarts,” Grand Piano conveys the sense of being a complete package, from cover to cover. Now THAT is something worth mentioning!

The production qualities are uniformly solid throughout, not that recording a single piano is a particularly ambitious project – pace audiophile collectors. Rather, the focus of Grand Piano is to offer their listeners superb recordings of first-class performances, featuring rare and unusual repertoire recorded in more than acceptable sound.

From a personal perspective, I hope Grand Piano will test the waters  with a few SACDs in the future, just as many other prestigious classical labels such as cpo, Alia Vox, ALBA, Tudor, Divox, Channel Classics, Pentatone and Harmonia Mundi have done for quite some time. This would undoubtedly increase the value of these high-quality productions even more and would no doubt, lure a few die-hard audiophiles to give the label a second look. Last but not least, it should be mentioned that Grand Piano will be distributed by Naxos, ensuring wide availability.

Overall, all of us at were mightily impressed by these first four titles and are eager to see how it goes. Starting strong can be a blessing, a curse, and really just leaves two options: either Grand Piano continues to build upon these four discs and blossoms into the collectors’ keyboard “go to” label, or it fails to meet the mark. Either way, will continue to follow the future developments and will be certain to write about it. For now however, Hats off! Anyone who is seriously interested in piano music should check out Grand Piano for an extended test drive in their home CD player. © 2012 The Listener

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2012

Perishing in a Nazi Second World War concentration camp, Erwin Schulhoff, did not live long enough to promote music that showed a composer of much promise. Born in Prague 1894, much of his mature musical education came from Max Reger before setting out on a career as pianist and composer. In the latter role he was to become torn between the traditions of the great German and Czech composers and his equal fascination with the Second Viennese School, whilst having a delight in playing the jazz music coming from the States. The present disc largely covers his younger years, the Variations and Fugue on an Original Dorian Theme written when he was just turned twenty, one of very few pieces he composed in the style of Debussy with whom he studied for a year. There are fifteen variations of ever changing moods, some calling for a show of technical virtuosity, others, including the more extended Fifth variation, sketched in quiet beauty. The Partita dates from 1922 and can be easily likened to jazz seen through the eyes of Schoenberg, each of its seven sections a short cameo described in its title. The readily attractive Third Suite in five movements from 1926 uses only the left hand and harks back to impressionism. He had a brief flirtation with composing popular song, Susi, a beguiling melody from 1937. Coming completely new to the music, I was much impressed by the multi-award winning German pianist, Caroline Weichert, who is convincing in her solicitations on the composer’s behalf. The recorded sound—produced and edited by Weichert—is outstanding, the disc appearing from the Naxos stable in the ‘full price’ Grand Piano series, this being the first volume of the complete Schulhoff piano music. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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