ECM New Series debut for the exceptional Russian-born pianist Lisa Smirnova, playing Handel's Eight Great Suites (1720), also known as "The Eight London Suites" or "Suites de Pièces pour le Clavecin" - by any name, major pieces in the keyboard literature. Outstanding artists from Glenn Gould to Keith Jarrett have been drawn to these suites, but there are very few recordings of all eight, either on piano or harpsichord, currently on the market. Smirnova opts for the modern piano. She had been working rigorously on the Suites for five years prior to undertaking this recording, making many discoveries.
The 1720 edition of Suites - HWV 426-433 - is considered by many the most important collection of Handel's early works. Published by the composer himself, it includes works from both his Hamburg and English periods, all extensively revised by the composer, right through the printing process.
Educated at Moscow's Tchaikovsky Conservatory, the Salzburg Mozarteum, and with Maria Curcio and Robert Levin, Smirnova (born in Moscow, currently living in Austria) burst onto the classical scene in 1992 with a well-received debut at Carnegie Hall when she was only 20. In 1993, she received the Brahms Prize at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, the first pianist ever to be honoured with this award, and her concert activities have extended to international concert podia in Europe, Asia and the USA. She has a long relationship with the Far East - since 2007 she has been Artistic Director of the Nagasaki-Ojika International Music Festival.
Smirnova's repertoire extends across the centuries - she has collaborated with contemporary composers including Kancheli, Silvestrov and Rihm, and won international awards for her recordings of Bach on MDG. Other widely-praised recordings include her account of Bloch's works for viola and piano with Daniel Raiskin, on BMG/Arte Nova.
Personnel: Lisa Smirnova (piano)
(4 stars) Lisa Smirnova here performs the so-called "Eight London Suites" with great sensitivity and poise and subtle differentiation. -- The Independent, (Andy Gill), December 2, 2011
(4 stars) Smirnova shows what we have been missing...it's impossible not to be won over by their joy and sophistication. -- Financial Times, (Andrew Clark), February 18, 2012
(5 stars) Urbane, joyful, sophisticated playing...teems with buoyant gigues, elegant dances and vivacious fugues, and is alive with purposefulness and poetry. -- BBC Music Magazine, (Paul Riley), January 2012
These suites deserve to be far better known...truly delightful...Smirnova's limpid touch and lucid tone are perfect partners for Handel. -- Gramophone, (Jeremy Nicholas), March 2012