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Jean-Marie André
Crescendo (France), February 2018

…a recording that will please both connoisseurs of Estonian music and amateurs seeking new discoveries © 2018 Crescendo (France)

Richard Kraus
MusicWeb International, February 2018

I had not heard any of the music of Jaan Rääts before this disc, which I now understand is my loss. Here are six attention-grabbing piano sonatas by a contemporary master from Estonia who should be better known.

Pianist Nicolas Horvath begins with a pair of sonatas which Rääts revised in 2014. No. 9 opens dramatically, and follows an emotional trajectory across three movements of assertion, followed by introspection, revolved by a somewhat tempered affirmation. No. 10 also conveys a sense of connection to tradition, yet using unconventional means to show it. This sonata sounds more improvisatory, although that is likely an illusion created by the composer, skillfully abetted by Horvath.

Nicolas Horvath is an energetic and sensitive performer, who plays as if these short sonatas are masterpieces, and perhaps they are. The artist’s conviction certainly helps carry the listener along. © 2018 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Kari Nevalainen
INNER, December 2017

If there’s one word that would describe Rääts’ musical thinking as it manifests itself in these piano sonatas and the disc, it is its originality, and why not, oddity too.

On the one hand, the music is, as one critic put it, playful, obsessively aggressive, lyrical, hacking, rhythmic, and minimalistic. Stylistically postmodern, if you like. On the other, it’s characteristically inorganic, structurally angular and texturally somewhat heavy. This last aspect makes the music kind of onerous to inhale. But Rääts’ sonatas also present clear-cut, non-trivial and first and foremost, highly energetic music.

The sonata “Quasi Beatles” is from the best end. Some of the famous themes are audible but the focus is on tightly controlled expressivity. © 2017 INNER Read complete review

Jean-Luc Caron, September 2017

Among his [Rääts’] works devoted to the piano, his ten sonatas stand out, undeservedly neglected, which French pianist Nicolas Horvath performs with passion, enthusiasm and verve… The Rääts Piano Sonatas… move away, with some success, from the traditional patterns, creating a clean and attractive sound world. Recommended. © 2017

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, June 2017

The music has a dash and panache that is as revelatory as it is appealing.

The music is not quite like anything else. The long span between the first and tenth sonatas does not at first listen show a huge stylistic change, there is a pronounced Rääts-like quality to all of them. But that pronounced originality is the constant thread that makes the entire program stand out as special.

Jaan Rääts has found a way to be modern without being what one might expect. That is something to appreciate. Explore this music and find another musical world awaiting! © 2017 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review

Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, May 2017

Nicholas Horvath seems in masterly command of Råäts’ often dark yet gleaming materials whether in propulsion or in the hypnotic doldrums. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2017

We are indebted to Grand Piano for introducing the first recordings of the piano sonatas by the octogenarian Estonian, Jaan Rääts, this being the first of two discs. Prolific in his output that includes ten symphonies and twenty-four concertos, it is Rääts’ years spent educating the present generation of composers for which he will be specially remembered. As a student he was educated in both piano and composition, the first group of three sonatas coming from 1959 when he was twenty-seven, and were made up of very short movements, the four-movement Third lasting less than seven minutes in total. It is a curious mix of tonality and atonality with a hint of Shostakovich in his spiky mode, the disc’s most extended movement, at the centre of the First, being an unspecified lament. The Second introduces a minimalist tendency and jazz influences that continue as the sonatas progress to the Ninth dating from 1985. Occasionally melody enters, as in the Grave movement of the Second, and more often in the Fourth, to which he added the title, Quasi Beatles. No quotes, though you could well believe it contains music from their popular songs. Then a time jump of sixteen years before we arrive at the Ninth, though the recipe is much the same. The most recent sonata, the Tenth composed in 2000, is in one short movement divided into three moods. Born in Monaco, the pianist, Nicolas Horvath, is known for his deep committment to contemporary music, and has already become a champion of Jaan Rääts, with whom he has worked in the preparation of these sonata recordings. Very good sound. © 2017 David’s Review Corner

Records International, April 2017

“Rääts’ sonatas embody a sophisticated yet organic fusion of opposites, characterised by playful simplicity, post-modernist dissonance, minimalistic obsession, harshly driving rhythms and achingly lyrical gestures. Poly-stylistic references, motives and quotations come and go at a rapid pace, or else topple over each other like commuters scrambling for a seat on the metro in rush hour. Superficially, one might make an analogy to the stylistic inclusiveness of Alfred Schnittke’s works, or plausibly claim Rääts to be the missing link between Dmitri Shostakovich and Steve Reich. Yet Rääts is recognizably his own man, whose inherent sense of form and internal balance brings clarity and cohesion to the disparate and kaleidoscopic elements of his style.”—from the booklet notes by Jed Distler. © 2017 Records International

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