International Reviews

Fanfare Magazine, USA - Volume 47, No. 4March / April 2024 - "A great program from a great pianist. Every piece is worthy of many listenings."
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Schliessmann writes, "I feel how each listener in the audience is listening to me, and I feel its warmness, for example, and I give it back to the complete audience. I feel the intensity of hearing, of listening. This is like electricity, and this I give back to the audience." Schliessmann gives his audience here a generous program of pieces that are very close to him. This recording was made on April 3-5, 2023 at the Fazioli Concert Hall in Sacile, Italy. Besides these incredible performances we are able to enjoy this program in state-of-the-art Dolby Atmos high-definition audio. The hybrid multichannel SACD is presented as a beautiful two-CD boxed set with a 60-page booklet, but is currently having some minor production problems and should be back in stock soon. In the meantime, I was able to enjoy the program via a download.

There is also a download of the booklet. Schliessmann provides an extensive and well-written booklet essay (about 20 pages each in English, German, and French). It gives the listener a good insight into the tremendous musical mind at work here. Divine Art's production values have been quite impressive in recent years, and never more so than on the Schliessmann releases that have come my way. From the very high-definition audio to the mixing and balance to the booklet design, pictures, and texts, I cannot believe any artist could ever hope for anything more than this label regularly delivers.

Special mention should be made of the various brilliant movements and sections, whether in Bach, Mendelssohn, or Schumann. Schliessmann never loses track of the melodies, and they are always shaped and given sensitive dynamic shading. While these are characteristics we expect in the slower movements, it is a revelation when they are applied to technically demanding, brilliant movements. I cite a few examples here: Bach's Capriccio in the Partita and third movement in the Italian Concerto, Mendelssohn's Variations Nos. 16 and 17, and the second movement of Schumann's Fantasie. A number of young pianists seem to take these movements as fast as possible, probably to show off their technical skills. Not Schliessmann, for he has no technical limitations, but finds and brings out the melodies here and keeps the level of excitement and virtuosity present without being overpowering to the music.

Part of the reason I have enjoyed listening to this exceptional program many times is Schliessmann's playing at any tempo is always rhythmically alive. Bach's Fantasia is full of virtuosic, quick passages that move into some slower chordal sections. There is always a forward rhythmic movement, even when Schliessmann is slowing down for a contrasting section. The slow movement of the Italian Concerto can be uninteresting if taken too slowly, with little sense of the flow of the melody. With Bach's ornamentation in the second half, this presents more rhythmic challenges. I have never heard a better performance of this movement than Schliessmann's on this disc: It is perfect. The long build-up to the climax of the third movement of Schumann's Fantasie, a glorious outpouring of Schumann's love for Clara, is another place where the rhythm must move the piece forward. This performance makes that inevitable moment eagerly anticipated and eminently satisfying as well.

The Bach pieces are a part of Schliessmann's repertoire that he recorded and released before (Divine Art SACD 25751; see the feature article in Fanfare 38:4, Mar/Apr 2015). These fully exploit the resources of the modern grand piano. As the pianist points out, if you are going to play Bach on the piano, use everything it is capable of. His ornamentation is always tasteful and appropriate. He also points out that the current performances are just the most recent in a line of performances going back to his youth. His artistry has matured over all these years, and the performances here are revelatory. Given that his forthcoming Schumann disc was recorded after this one, I anticipate more great and fascinating performances from Schliessmann in the near future.

It is impossible to find words to give this recording a higher recommendation. It has already earned a spot on my Want List for the current year, and I'll continue to listen to it regularly.

***** A great program from a great pianist. Every piece is worthy of many listenings.
(James Harrington)

Fanfare Magazine, USA - Volume 47, No. 4March / April 2024 - "A superb solo piano recital all around."
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In Fanfare's March-April, 2015 issue (38:4), I interviewed Burkard Schliessmann, mainly in connection with his then new SACD Divine Art album of works by J. S. Bach. Among a couple of other items, that disc contained the Partita No. 2, the Italian Concerto, and the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, all three of which are duplicated here on this newly released two-disc Divine Art SACD set. I hasten to add, however, that these are not the same performances. It's impossible for them to be since they were recorded as recently as April 3-5, 2023 at the Fazioli Concert Hall in Sacile, Italy, on Schliessmann's personally owned Fazioli F278 concert grand.

These works are near and dear to the pianist's heart and are part of his core repertoire, so it's only natural that he would want to go on record with them again. The same may be said of Schumann's Fantasie, which was included in Burkard's three-disc album, only released in September, 2021, but remastered from a much earlier recording that had been previously issued on the Bayer label. The Divine Art three-CD set, titled At the Heart of the Piano, received several glowing reviews in Fanfare 45:3.

As far as I can tell, this is Schliessman's first time on record with Mendelssohn's Variations sérieuses and Schumann's Carnaval, complete, though he does give us here the ninth movement of Carnaval, titled "Chopin," as one of his two encore pieces, and then offers a performance of Chopin's Waltz in CT Minor as the second of his encore numbers, both of which he has also recorded previously.

Schliessmann's new set at hand begins with Bach's C-Minor Partita, and I have to admit that the pianist's way with Bach is definitely his own, yet one that I find quite captivating. Take, for example, the manner in which he addresses the shift in tempo, texture, and musical content at the point in the score marked Andante that follows the Grave Adagio introduction to the piece. His left-hand, "walking bass," eighth notes are clearly articulated with a staccato touch, but not nearly with the martelé aggressiveness of, say, Glenn Gould's staccato.

Meanwhile, Schliessman's right hand remains remarkably free to follow the clues and bring out the notes that constitute the melody as it plays hide and seek among the mirrored maze of Bach's contrapuntal crossword puzzle. The melody notes are not necessarily contiguous in all of the running passagework. Somewhere in there is a singable line, because Bach always sings, and he teases the player's fingers to find the song in the line and the listener's ears to hear it. Schliessmann has a keen ear for those notes, and his fingers know how to make the line sing.

Next on the disc is Bach's Italian Concerto, which, being a piece for solo harpsichord, is not a concerto as we normally define the term. Nor, is there anything one can point to that identifies it as Italian. In fact, the original title of the piece was Concerto in the Italian Taste. The Italian Concerto plus the French Overture together comprise Book II of Bach's Clavier-Übung, the shortest of the three books in which the composer published what he considered to be his most important keyboard works.

With due apologies to all pianists, I will say that the Italian Concerto is one of those pieces specifically designed for a two-manual harpsichord that cannot be fully realized as intended on the piano. Bach achieves the concertino-vs.-ripieno "concerto" effect by juxtaposing passages of lighter and softer textures against fuller and louder ones. But he also designates the lighteri.e., solo or concertinopassages to be played on the second manual, which through the use of different stops can be made to sound like a completely different instrument.

The piano can accomplish the first part of this, differentiating the textures through dynamics and touch, which, I have to say, Schliessmann is very, very good at, but not even he can make us believe we're hearing two different instruments. It's just not in the nature of the beast.

Following the Italian Concerto, Schliessmann gives us what is perhaps Bach's blockbuster, non-organ keyboard work, and likely his most popular, the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue. Believed to have been composed between 1717 and 1723, during the composer's time in Köthen, it dates from the period during which Bach was experimenting with various systems of tempered tuning that led to the first book of his Well-Tempered Clavier in 1722. The Chromatic Fantasia and the WTC (I) were written around the same time and possibly even overlap. It's now thought that the fugue was added to the Fantasia at a later date.

In the manner of its virtuosic, seemingly improvisatory style, the Fantasia part of the piece isn't entirely unique. Bach was certainly familiar with the toccatas, ricercars, and fantasias of Frescobaldi and Froberger, many of which exemplified the so-called "fantastic style" (stylus phantasticus), popular as early as the end of the 16th century.

What is likely unique about Bach's Fantasia is that it's thoroughly chromatic, and not just successively but consecutively or serially. In other words, it doesn't simply modulate freely from one key to another, it abuts diminished seventh chords by chromatic half-steps, one immediately after the other, thus sounding all 12 tones of the chromatic scale.

Some may be disappointed that the mathematically-minded Bach didn't come up with a 12-tone subject for the Fugue, but as noted earlier, the Fugue was most likely not composed at the same time as the Fantasia. There have even been suggestions that the Fugue might not be by Bach but by one of his contemporaries, and that it was only later tacked onto the Fantasia when it was finally published.

As can be guessed, the pair together require the utmost in virtuosity and control from the player. The Fantasia is extremely demanding for the duality of its requirements. On the one hand (no pun intended), it engages both hands simultaneously in equal oppositional playing, which requires enormous discipline and concentration; while on the other hand, the player must simultaneously display the virtuosic flair and sense of freedom that convey the impression of a toccata-like improvisational style. And that's just the Fantasia. Add to it the rigorous technique demanded by the Fugue, and you have quite an exhibitionistic tour-de-force. Little wonder that the work was a favorite of Mendelssohn, Liszt, Brahms, and other 19th-century virtuoso pianists, and still attracts keyboard artists and thrills audiences to this day. In Schliessmann, the work has found a modern-day master and magician.

To conclude disc one, the pianist turns to Mendelssohn's Variations sérieuses. Over 100 years and an entire historical era, the Classical period, may have intervened between Bach and Mendelssohn, but it was Mendelssohn, more than any other composer that we have to thank for ensuring and enshrining Bach's legacy in music history. Mendelssohn was a tireless advocate for Bach's music and an assiduous student of Bach's counterpoint and methods of composition.

Yet I couldn't help but wonder if there wasn't some deeper connection between the works on the disc by Bach and Mendelssohn's Variations sérieuses that led Schliessmann to include this particular Mendelssohn work.

The answer is a partial yes. That the Variations is in D Minor, the same key as the Chromatic Fantasy, is the least and most superficial of the similarities. More significantly, the theme on which the variations is based is highly chromatic. Within its first eight bars, each of the 12 tones of the chromatic scale is sounded at least once. It is no less difficult to write a set of variations on such a theme than it is to write a fugue on Bach's chromatic subject. Both are equally unpromising, yet both motivated their respective composers to produce some very extraordinary music.

Did Mendelssohn feel challenged to see what he could do working in the variations form with a thoroughly chromatic theme? Who can say? What can be said is that Schliessmann brings an expressive beauty to the slower variations and a dramatic intensity to the faster variations that I've rarely heard in this piece. For an example of the former, listen to Variation 14, and for the latter, to Variation 9.

Disc two is considerably shorter, consisting mainly of Schumann's Fantasie in C, op. 17, followed by Chopin's Waltz in CT Minor, the second number in the composer's set of Three Waltzes, op. 64. And finally, the two encore pieces listed in the headnote to this review.

Schumann's Fantasie, as a composition, needs no introduction. It's likely his greatest and most famous work for solo piano, not to mention one of his top contenders for most technically difficult. In fact, on a scale of 1 to 5, rates the second movement of it the penultimate entry in its category 5 list, edged out only by the Presto finale of the composer's Piano Sonata No. 2 in G Minor.

Such ratings, of course, are relative. What poses near insurmountable difficulties for one player, another player might find more tractable to his or her technique. If Schliessman is challenged by the piece, you wouldn't know it from listening to him play it. He has reached the plane sought and coveted by all players, which is to surmount all technical obstacles to the point where conscious awareness of them ceases to exist and all that is left is to dwell in the higher realm of pure music-making.

Burkard Schliessmann is in that class of musicians. His latest album is most assuredly a must-have for pianists and lovers of solo piano music, but also, I'd say for the general music lovers as an example of what musicianship at its finest is all about.

***** A superb solo piano recital all around.
(Jerry Dubbins)

Fanfare Magazine, USA - Volume 47, No. 4March / April 2024 - "Schliessmann’s questing mind and solid technique present us with interpretations that convince at every level."
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From the grand, rolled chords of the "Sinfonia" of Bach's Second Partita, several things become clear: this is an interpretation of conviction and clarity, caught in ideal sound and performed on a phenomenally well-prepared piano. The piano in question is a Fazioli F278, and heard on home turf; it is unsurprisingly in peak condition.

It is in Schliessmann's use of gesture set against underlying harmonic/structural process that the genius of this reading of the Second Partita lies. The later section of the "Sinfonia" scurries along; there is real insight in the "Allemande", too, lines unfolding limply yet with each note perfectly weighted. Again, there is a close-knit relationship between the local (the touch itself) and the higher structural level (here, the phrase). The "Courante" breathes nobility, the relationship of anacrusis and downbeat clearly micro-analysed prior to performance, ornaments always stylistically applied. Similarly, Schliessmann's left-hand bass articulation in the "Sarabande", a mezzo-staccato as if the notes came from a bowed cello, is both carefully judged and perfectly executed. How teasingly Schliessmann articulates the "Rondeau". The final "Capriccio" is taken at a steady pace, granting it a patina of tranquility underneath the surface activity. This is a fascinating reading, and the live provenance only adds to its heartfelt veracity.

The well-known Italian Concerto also begins with an imperiously rolled chord. Ornaments once more adorn the musical surface with grace, and Bach's harmonic sleights are well realised, in particular interrupted cadences. The central movement is taken daringly slowly, each left-hand note placed carefully, over which the right hand sings. Clarity is once more the watchword for the finale, with a repeated marked emphasis on the opening downward leap. There is an impulsive side to Schliessmann's interpretation that is most appealing. The finest of the Bach performances, though, is that of the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, where gesture is all in the Fantasia. Fantasy is in the title and suffuses Schliessmann's performance, contrasting this with the stricter fugue. There are moments of real grandeur, as if this were a transcription of an organ fugue, yet linear definition is never once compromised. The final high treble statement of the fugue seems to stretch out to the Heavens. Remarkable.

The Bach performances form a valuable appendix to Schliessmann's Goldberg Variations. In an interview around that release in Fanfare 31:3, Schliessmann articulates his thoughts around Bach performance, with especial reference to playing that piece on a modern piano. It is worthwhile remembering (and in a sense, the performances' integrity) remind us that Schliessmann was at one time a pupil of the great organist Helmut Walcha, whose emphasis on the independence of voices in Bach was clearly a lesson well learned..

The account of Mendelssohn's Variations sérieuses that follows reveals parallels with his Bach, most notably in the independence of lines (the very first variation is a clear example of this). One of Mendelssohn's most loved works, the Variations sérieuses emerges here as a pillar of the piano repertoire. The imagination of Mendelssohn's writing is emphasized (the fifth variation), while the sixth reminds us that Mendelssohn was perfectly capable of writing angst-laden music (think of the F-Minor String Quartet, too). The facility of the seventh variation is an object lesson in piano playing. The suddenly strict part-writing of the tenth variation is given with real sobriety of outlook, and that same analytical slant shines through variation 13. The whole coheres beautifully, leading to a finale shot through not just with dexterous energy, but with real beauty, so those final chords carry huge weight.

Over on the second disc, the Schumann Fantasie blazes forth. My review of Schliessmann's previous recording of this (from the disc At the Heart of the Piano) appeared in Fanfare 45:3. That was a performance of huge integrity; this, too, but this one is perhaps more human at heart. One feels the impetuous surges of emotion a touch more in the first movement. I have previously written on Schliessmann's chameleon way with the piano, that he adapts his sound appropriately to each composer. And so it is here, with Schumann as sonorous and as burnished as they come. The Fazioli supports this approach fully. The chords that close the first movement are just superbly judged, and how the recording reproduces the piano's tone perfectly. It is in the "song" of the finale that Schliessmann really shines though. Many pianists over-project when the line goes to the middle or lower voices, but Schliessmann gets it just right. There is a momentum to Schliessmann's finale that also feels entirely natural. Schliessmann's interpretations just keep growing in maturity.

It is a rather nice touch that the final piece on the program was Chopin's Waltz, op. 64/2, and the first encore is Schumann's "Chopin" movement from Carnaval. The waltz rhythm of op. 64/2 is maintained as in few other performances, and yet the poignant undercurrent remains intense. Nothing is rushed, and yet scales still sparkle, melodies sing, and the rubato is entirely convincing. Schumann's take on Chopin really does sound like a Schumannesque Chopin Impromptu; This is a dream of a performance: one revels both in the loveliness of the piano and in Schliessmann's playing. Finally, back to Schumann for "Warum?", at once a heart-led outpouring and a study in perfect part-writing: Schliessmann voices the individual lines so that it sounds like a conversation between several participants. A great way to end a fabulous recital.

An almost equal participant in this project is the sound engineer Matteo Costa, who works miracles in capturing the sound of an instrument Schliessmann is clearly besotted with (and rightly so). Detailed and expansive booklet notes by Schliessmann himself are the icing on the Fazioli cake. Schliessmann's questing mind and solid technique present us with interpretations that convince at every level. Recommended.

***** Schliessmann’s questing mind and solid technique present us with interpretations that convince at every level.
(Colin Clarke)

Audiophile Audition, USA - "A stunning release by Schliessmann ...", December 12, 2023
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This most recent release by German classical pianist Burkard Schliessmann appeals - via Schliessmann's extensive liner notes - to an antique aesthetic dating back both to Plato and Boethius, an emphasis on proportion in artistic values that invokes the Quadrivium in Plato's Classical Greece, which established rules for aesthetic balance. The question then arises whether, perhaps in imitation of the equally elaborate exegeses of Artur Schnabel for his studied edition of Beethoven piano sonatas, Schliessmann fulfills and realizes his ambitions or as, in the case of Schnabel, he abandons an elaborately wrought, intellectual exercise in favor of a purely emotional response. Or is some Aristotelian "middle way" at work, a chiseled fusion of ratio and eros that renders Schliessmann's selected repertory in naturally organic proportion?

Schliessmann begins with Bach's 1731 Partita No. 2 in C Minor from the set "Clavier-Übung I," whose richly intoned Overture on the Paolo Fazioli instrument rings with alert authority. Moving from sinfonia to fugue, the movement sings first in arioso then contrapuntal texture. The succeeding Allemande in quadruple meter maintains the clear, vocal character in Bach's especial polyphony. Fiery energy marks the Courante, its triple meter gallop invested with passing ornaments that will soon illuminate the various galanterie elements embedded in this dance suite. The emotive heart of the piece, the Sarabande, reveals its haughty, Spanish origins, the triple meter asserting emphasis on the second beat. Schliessmann urges the pace as an andante, a confident, walking tempo. The more intricate Rondeau offers a quick dance in sprightly triple time, one beat per measure. Lastly, the Capriccio, which likes to stress the second half of the measure, music rife with agogic possibilities. Schliessmann has not sacrificed Bach's eminently dance-like impulses for anything like academia, and the recording (3-5 April 2023) has the immediate glow of a refreshed consideration of music of elder vintage.

Bach conceived his 1735 Italian Concerto in F after the style established by Corelli, Torelli, and Vivaldi, involving competing musical masses, the large ripieno group against a responsive, small concertino. Originally written for a two-manual harpsichord, the texture for the modern piano demands various, dynamic niceties from Schliessmann. The ritornello theme must sound palpably at different degrees of the scale and then undergo polyphonic treatment. The assertive Allegro that opens the concert posits tonic and dominant modes immediately, the solo part's residing in the right hand, the left's providing the larger (orchestral) body. Those auditors used to faster, fleeter renditions may find Schliessmann a trifle precious in his articulation of Bach's active filigree in the outer movements, a desire to combine earnestness of purpose with brilliance of correct execution. For the marvelous Andante movement, Schliessmann's approach renders an operatic, cantabile melody line touched by hints of the tragic muse. Bach eliminates any residue of musica ficta by having carefully provided every detail for ornamental realization in grace notes and turns. The last movement, Presto giocoso, asks Schliessmann to "cut the rope," as Zorba would say it, to allow the sense of abandon to musical bliss have its way. Lively, but a touch reluctant, the Schliessmann rendition retains the high spirits of its inspiration.

The extraordinary Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D Minor (c. 1720) challenges Schliessmann's capacity for intuitive improvisation, that balances a constant tension between thick, chromatic densities and disarming periods of parlando recitative. Schliessmann's opening foray in toccata style reveals an impulsive confrontation with Bach's often colliding effects, the urgent runs and meditative rhetoric of often enharmonic modulations and sustained pedal points. The approach we hear seems eminently Romantic in character, the sliding of harmonic shifts in dynamically altered hues having created a mist of erotic, lyrical, and spiritual tension. The studied entry of the Fugue invites "academic" or "contrived" epithets, but the evolution of the voice parts and their increased layering soon transcends the medium of the keyboard to accomplish a richly vibrant, instrumental motet. The influence of the Fazioli keyboard action contributes to the clear, gripping resonance of effect, the pungent sonority courtesy of Recording Producer and Sound Engineer Matteo Costa.

Mendelssohn's contribution, his 1842 Variations sérieuses, extends Schliessmann's explorations of organic unity of musical design, the key of D minor now evidently an extension of the affektenlehre the pianist considers crucial to the architecture of his recital. That the music shares with the Schumann Fantasie the same, venerating impulse to celebrate Beethoven in a fund-raising campaign for a monument to the titan in Bonn, cements an extra-musical consistency to the program. Mendelssohn has sublimated his own impulse to virtuoso ostentation with a theme, seventeen variants, and a Presto finale that culminates a huge canvas balancing melodic beauty and structural integrity. Each of the variations arises directly out of the harmonic and rhythmic motions of its predecessor, a strategy that adumbrates procedures common to Brahms and Schoenberg. Bach's influence resonates in Variation 10: Moderato, made lucidly apparent in Schliessmann's tempered realization. Yet, the call to variations brillantes endures, and several of the sections reveal Schliessmann's natural bravura when required, as in Variation 16: Allegro vivace, Variation 17 and the breathless Finale-Presto.

Schliessmann turns to his pièce de resistance, Robert Schumann's 1836 (rev. 1839) Fantasie in C Major, whose passions embrace the gamut of tonal expressivity from Bach and Beethoven to Wagner. A hybrid work in sonata-form, the Fantasie fuses Schumann's innate musicality with his equally ardent pursuit of the poetic impulse, its spontaneous seizure of the transcendent intuition, or what might be termed the "nostalgia for the dream." Given its etiology as part of the scheme to raise in Bonn a monument to Beethoven, the work's allusions to the song cycle An die ferne Geliebte, to the Moonlight Sonata, and to the A Major Sonata, Op. 101 impress, rather than embarrass, us. Schumann called his Fantasie "a profound lament" to Clara Wieck, his intended, from whom he suffered a forced separation in 1838; so, the intimately personal nature of the music seeks an exaltation, an apotheosis, in Classical, epic terms.

Schliessmann addresses the opening chords of the rhapsodic first movement with the ardent rapture of cosmic yearning, even beyond the quoted lines from Schlegel. The counterpoints well hint of the nexus of love and death, the height of passion confronted with the paradoxical abyss of erotic denial and fulfillment. The three-note motto in the "Legend" achieves a potent series of stretti, often leaving off on an unresolved cadence that lingers at an emotional precipice, soon to beckon for salvation way of the A-flat's appeal to the "distant beloved." The ruminative passages offer moments of poetic transport, brief islands of relief between fateful urgings of the grandly sweeping landscape that feels conversant with Shelley's synoptic West Wind.

The E-flat Major second movement, played Moderately as directed, proffers a stoic march in dotted rhythm that might have sent the League of David in search of kindred spirits, inhabiting as it does the same universe as the second movement in Beethoven's Op. 101. The oncoming syncopes, however, drive the music forward to the middle section, a brief intake of bliss before the relentless rush to judgment of the coda's leaping, neurotically insistent figures.

Schliessmann conceives the entire last movement as a dream-scape, an ardent love-song worthy of the music's dedicatee, Franz Liszt and its spiritual inspirator, Clara Wieck. The poetically improvisational character of the music Schliessmann conveys through his restlessly searching left hand, as the music rises to the level of a long-sought chorale. The repetitive structure of the music suggests Nietzsche's "Eternal Return," rife with the spiritual resolve of his equally potent notion of Amor fati, love of one's predetermined fate. The sense of freedom Schliessmann invokes at the coda reminds me less of the Moonlight Sonata than of the last pages of Beethoven's Great Fugue, a liberation after the most strenuous of rhythmic and structural directives.

Schliessmann, to conclude his recital proper, addresses the "iconoclastic Classicist," Frédéric Chopin, in only one piece, his ever-popular Valse in C# Minor, Op. 64/2. Here, the fusion of freedom-in-necessity crystallizes in the application of controlled rubato, exercising a fluid, singing line within a strict pulsation. Expressively nuanced, the music accelerates and retreats in coy, salon gestures, both bemused and subtle in their tragic lilt. In its last incarnation, the motto theme seems to skitter away into the aether.

Schliessmann's two encores return to the poetic muse as it inhabits Schumann: his "portrait" of Chopin from Carnaval, an invocation of lonely nobility of spirit; then, the unanswered question, "Warum?" from the Op. 12 Fantasy-Pieces, whose series of rising and imploring figures might tempt Silenus to respond in his tragic wisdom: only that we may pass away. Schliessmann's recital, however, will endure.

The original version here:

(Dr. Gary Lemco)

International Piano, UK - December 2023
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Burkard Schliessmann's performance of the Berg Sonata Op. 1 is a penetrating one.

(Peter Rabinowitz)

International Piano, UK - December 2023
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The piano is superb, as is the acoustic. ...There is musical intent and a strong personality evident ... Schliessmann is clearly a strong musical personality.

(Jonathan Dobson)

International Piano, UK - September 2022
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Originally recorded in 2007, Burkard Schliessmann’s superb performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations has now been reissued in Dolby Atmos format. Lossless and with an Apple Digital Master, the sound feels perfectly ‘placed’ so one hears every nuance of Schliessmann’s playing. And there is no doubt his reading has developed over many years: listening to it feels almost intimate.

Right from the outset the Aria and Variation 1 reveal Schliessmann’s textural clarity. His finger-strength is remarkable, each line perfectly articulated. Playing on his own Hamburg Steinway, he allows himself some leeway with ornamentation, exuding spontaneity without ever losing the underlying pulse. As the performance unfolds, we meet the entire human condition, from humour (Variation 23) to the dark introspection of the so-called ‘Black Pearl’ (Variation 25). Schliessmann’s performance is carefully calibrated on both macro- and micro-levels. This, coupled with an understanding of Bach’s gesture and rhetoric, makes this reading absolutely compelling – as is Schliessmann’s highly-informed booklet note.

So it is that the return of the Aria (heard after a noble quodlibet) holds great emotional power. Superb.

(Colin Clarke)

Atlanta Audio Club, USA - Phils's Classical Reviews, September 2022
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If we didn’t know better, we might have imagined that Johann Sebastian Bach wrote his great Goldberg Variations with the foreknowledge that it would be performed several centuries later on by an artist with the temperament and patience of Burkard Schliessmann. Certainly, our German contemporary comes well equipped for the task, being a dedicated musical scholar as well as possessing the mature keyboard technique needed for the Goldbergs. As I remarked of this artist some time ago, he is the last sort of pianist you would expect to just play the notes as written, and without comment. That is important because Bach’s approach to the Variations, while exhaustive, was not perfectly intuitive.

Nor was it intended to be. As he did in his Well-Tempered Klavier, Bach was working from a theory of harmony that was well in advance of the music of his day, with clear guideposts as to what the future held in store. The Goldbergs consist of thirty variations on an Aria da capo that is essentially a slow Sarabande. It is an emotionally moving, highly ornamented melody in three-quarter time with a descending arpeggio midway through that always gives me goose bumps, as often as I’ve heard it. These variations are also unusual in that they are built on the bass line of the aria, rather than its melody, a procedure that yields high dividends harmonically.

The variations themselves occur in groups of three, with the third being an imposing canon in which the melody in one hand is imitated by the other in a succession of ever-increasing intervals, from a canon at the unison (Var. 3) to a canon at the ninth (Var. 27). Of particular interest is the way the variations in the second position in each group of three (Nos. 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, 26, and 29) may be taken to constitute what Baroque scholar Ralph Kirkpatrick described as “arabesques.” Performing them requires feats of prestidigitation, involving much hand-crossing and considerable freedom and flexibility of arms, hands, and fingers.

Starting off with a stately French Ouverture in dotted rhythms, there is a lot of musical treasure to be absorbed in the Goldberg Variations in terms of harmonic theory, technical challenges for the performer and sheer auditory pleasure for the listener. The latter may rightly sense there is a compelling drama unfolding here, without knowing exactly how or why. We leave that to a skilled interpretive artist of the calibre of Burkard Schliessmann. Suffice it to say these variations never fail to intrigue, in many ways. For many, the emotional deep point of the Goldbergs will be Variation 25, which famed harpsichordist Wanda Landowska described as the “black pearl” of the set. Its message of solace and consolation for a weary world is as much in need as ever in our time. Another is the repeat of the Aria da capo at the very end, a moment that always bring a lump to my throat. As Schliessmann rightly surmises, the notes are the same as we heard at the beginning, but there’s a difference. They are sadder, softer, wiser. We feel we have been on a long journey.

(Dr. Phil Muse)

Fanfare Magazine, USA - Volume 46, No. 2November / December 2022
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This performance was recorded in 2007 (there was an interview and review around it in Fanfare 31:3); this is the 2022 remastering, available also on Dolby Atmos. I have followed Atmos since launch, and feel it is a force for good; and if anyone needs convincing, this release will do the trick. The sound here is anything but “floaty” (a frequent criticism of Atmos); it just feels perfectly positioned. We hear everything as Schliessmann intends; this review auditioned both via Atmos and the physical Super Audio Compact Discs, and it is Atmos that feels the most involving. The sound feels purer, more crystalline; if there is a visual analogy, it is like one’s first upgrade to Bluray from DVD. The aim of all of this – recording ,transmission medium, player, piano – is to make us forget they are there and to bring us to Bach via Schliessmann, Divine Art and Dolby Atmos conspire to come closer to this ideal than anyone else. On a purely musico-emotional level, I derived more pleasure from the Apple Music Atmos medium.

Schliessmann’s decision to play Bach on the piano might lose some purist listeners, but it would be their loss. The intellect that has gone into this realization is huge; similarly, the emotional range. As one listens, it feels as if the wisdom of centuries is somehow filtered down via some sort of alchemical distillation into the theme. Schliessmann gives the theme pace (one can hear the shadow of a slow dance in the background). The Aria also demonstrates the superior quality of his own Hamburg Steinway (the recording was made in Teldex Studio, Berlin). That “his own Hamburg Steinway” is significant, as Schliessmann knows this instrument inside and out; it is an extension of himself. Listen to the glistening clarity of “Variatio I," and his way with the ornaments, free and improvisatory, and yet the pulse remains ever intact.

It is the freshness of the play of voices that impresses so much; dialogues proliferate (listen to the ever-so-civilized one in Variatio 3). This approach also enables a real sense of humor (Variation 23). Schliessmann’s touch is impeccable; so much reminiscent of that used by Argerich in her classic DG recordings. Yet his rapport with Bach is if anything closer. By bringing a sense of play to this performance (and with it, light), Schliessmann almost invites us to reframe Bach’s intricacies as expressions of joy. This is the pair opposite of the lumbering high seriousness of Lang Lang’s disaster of a traversal (DG). Tempos, even when he reinvents a variation (as in the Tempo di Giga, Variatio 7), feel perfectly judged. There is no hunt of awkwardness that even the best can bring (I think particularly of Variatio 8) where even Angela Hewitt (either Hyperion version, or even in a live performance I attended in Manchester, UK) can sound just a touch off-track; the same could be said of Schliessmann’s cat-and-mouse way with Variation14.

The sheer variety of touch on display is remarkable. Variatio 13 seems to demonstrate this aspect of Schliessmann’s performance in microcosm. At the heart of all of this seems to be an awareness of Affektenlehre; listen to how the sighs of the Variatio 15, of the grand gestures of the Ouverture that opens the second part (Variatio 16). The remarkable Variatio 25 (sometimes called the “Black Pearl” variation) becomes the emotive heart of Schliessmann’s account; just shy of ten minutes’ duration, he makes sure we hear the sheer modernity of Bach’s writing. Interestingly, the decorations of Variatio 26 feel modern after that, ahead of their time (as Bach was, of course), as does Variatio 28 (with its neighbor-note oscillations that explode into joyful lines).  Yet the nobility of Variatio 30 is absolutely of its time.

The return to the beginning, the Aria, at the end has the effect of closing this cycle of a Universe co-created by Bach and Schliessmann. This is important, as it means that what we experience in this traversal is exactly what variation form brings: the examination of an object (the “Aria”) from a multiplicity of viewpoints.

The booklet note is extensive, a university-grade lecture, and cherishable in its own right.

***** Schliessmann’s recorded Bach is human, alive. It rejoices in its own endless ability to create from a germinal cell (the “Aria”); its exuberance is never-ending.
(Colin Clarke)

Fanfare Magazine, USA - Volume 46, No. 2November / December 2022
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In 2009, the original release from Bayer (100326) made my best of the year list. I found the SACD recorded sound to be about as perfect as technology allows and Schliessmann’s playing comparable to the intellect and control of Gould without his eccentricities or vocal embellishments. Here, with Divine Arts new release, the sound quality moves up a notch and the recording becomes readily available again. Newly remastered in 5.0 Dolby Atmos audio, it is available in both two channel HD stereo (my review copy) and offered as a hybrid 5-channel SACD/CD. I enjoyed having a reason to revisit this and my opinion has not changed in 14 years. It is still one of the top Goldberg Variations. I also refer readers back to an intriguing interview and superb review of Schliessmann’s original Bayer release by James Reel in FANFARE 31:3 (Jan/Feb 2008). 

The title page of the first edition of the Goldberg Variations (1741) begins with Clavier Übung (Keyboard Practice). This was the fourth publication of Bach’s to carry this title and all were published during his lifetime. The first was the six Partitas, second was the Italian Concerto and French Overture, the third was an odd collection of organ pieces including a Prelude and Fugue, 21 Choral Preludes and 4 Duets. A host of great pianists have played and continue to play these harpsichord pieces on a single 88-note keyboard. Bach’s music defies whatever medium it is played on. Yes, there are significant difficulties in doing so and great pianists like Schliessmann overcome these without drawing attention to those difficulties. 

I am consistently impressed with the phrasing and delineation of the voices under Schliessmann’s fingers. He draws the listener into Bach’s world of counterpoint. These variations can get quite complicated and are often in at least three voices. Keeping these distinct, especially on one keyboard requires detailed and difficult attention to the phrasing of the inner voices. His tempos are a little more relaxed than Gould’s and of course there is no low level singing in the background. I have enjoyed this recording for quite some time now and will continue to with this new Divine Art release.

***** The Goldberg Variations on piano in a poetic performance
(James Harrington)

Fanfare Magazine, USA - Volume 46, No. 2November / December 2022
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In the Jan/Feb 2022 Fanfare (45:3), I reviewed At the Heart of the Piano, a three-disc release from Divine Art (DA), showcasing Burkard Schliessmann in music by Bach (arr. Busoni), Schumann, Liszt, Scriabin, and Berg. For the greater part, these are reissues of recordings previously released on the Bayer label. I summarized my appreciation for Burkard Schliessmann’s artistry:

Schliessmann plays all of this challenging repertoire with an impressively assured technique that is always at the service of the music. Schliessmann is a pianist who avoids such exaggerations as italicizing passages to showcase his virtuosity, extremes in tempo, or an excessive application of rubato. That said, Schliessmann’s interpretations exhibit a convincing ebb and flow, and the ability to draw upon a wide range of colors and dynamics to create the appropriate sound world for the work at hand. Schliessmann is also an artist with a keen sense of pacing. Both the Bach/Busoni and Schumann Symphonic Etudes are notable both for the accomplished and expressive way Schliessmann executes the variations, and the manner in which he connects one variation to the next.

A new release from DA (again, a reissue of a Bayer recording) presents Schliessmann in the Everest of solo keyboard variations. In the Jan/Feb 2008 Fanfare (31:3), James Reel interviewed Schliessmann, and offered a most positive review of the initial Bayer release of the pianist’s recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations:

For the most part, Schliessmann presents this as music of optimism and joy, the exact opposite of much of Simone Dinnerstein’s recording, reviewed in the previous issue. Oh, Schliessmann does know when and how to get serious, as in the extended (though not distended) traversal of the 25th variation (discussed in the accompanying interview). Yet even here, the playing is not self-consciously weighty; he doesn’t try to make Bach sound like Beethoven… if you want something more in the tradition of Glenn Gould’s first recording, minus some of the peculiarities but plus the repeats, Schliessmann’s account is highly satisfactory.

I share James Reel’s enthusiasm for this recording. The admirable qualities I noted in my review of At the Heart of the Piano are evident here as well. And Schliessmann does a superb job of realizing Bach’s all-embracing musical and emotional journey. In such episodes as the opening and closing Aria, and the aforementioned Variation No. 25, Schliessmann adopts a strikingly expansive, introspective, and poetic approach. But when the occasion merits, there is also a welcome lightness of touch, and even playfulness. In his extensive and thought-provoking interview with Reel, Schliessmann notes how essential the jeu perlé technique is not only to Mozart and Chopin, but Bach’s Goldberg Variations. And Schliessmann’s combination of precision and elegance in fleet passagework is most gratifying throughout this recording. The Super Audio CD sounds quite impressive on my conventional two-channel stereo system; Schliessmann’s Steinway D-274 concert grand emerges with richness and clarity. The pianist’s superb liner notes further enhance this admirable release. Recommended.

***** A poetic and superbly played Goldberg Variations
(Ken Meltzer)

Audiophile Audition, USA - "Bach's vision in that fusion of ratio and eros, intellect and intuition ...", July 12, 2022
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Divine Art reissues Burkard Schliessmann's July 17-19, 2007 recording of Bach's epic Goldberg Variations, remastered in 2022 at the Teldex Studios, Berlin in a process dubbed Dolby Atmos. The broad approach to Bach's construct, an Aria and 30 Variations, including repeats, stretches the performance time to some 83 minutes, more competitive with the 1995 St. Petersburg traversal by Rosalyn Tureck than that of  Schliessmann's professed affinity for the strictures of Glenn Gould, whom Schliessmann quotes extensively in his florid, booklet commentary. Unlike Gould, Schliessmann does not attempt to compromise his Steinway Grand Piano D-274 with touches approximating harpsichord sonority. Rather, the close resonance of the keyboard recommends this high flown, intellectual performance, in modern sound, as a distinct musical entity in the Bach performance canon. Kudos to Recording Producer Friedemann Engelbrecht and Sound Engineer Julian Schwenkner for the vivid imagery their collaboration has fixed for this survey.

The sonic immediacy of the remastering follows Schliessmann in his essentially harmonic approach to this monumental conception, essentially an ouroboros whose beginning and end, the Aria, encloses itself. The bass line provides the impetus to the entire structure, the various melodies and dances a mere accompaniment and elaboration of the bass. At every third variant Bach introduces a contrapuntal gambit, inserting a series of canons that graduates in spatial intervals as the music proceeds, from the unison to the ninth degree. Bach then resorts to his Homeric sense of humor, applying his polyphonic mastery to what he calls a quodlibet, a combination of profane, popular tunes that, by Bach's musical alchemy, achieves timeless nobility.

The cleanliness of articulation, perhaps tending to the dry and pungent, manages to add a decisive, rhythmic spice to such events as the Variation 7 in Gigue tempo. The overt virtuosity of Variations 14 and 15 rings with dexterous authority, while the tragic Variation 25 in its minor mode elevates us to another world whose veil has been lifted. The sense of an evolving structure appears foremost in Schliessmann's concept, as we move through elaborations and ornaments, determined, geometric forms to a higher sensibility that Bach always regarded less as an aesthetic exercise, but as a moral imperative.

The intricacies of Bach's stunning achievement here, in the "Keyboard Practice" of 1742, have been well documented by commentators and scholars. That the music transcends explanatory pedantry poses the challenge for any performer technically equipped and intellectually intrepid in the face of consummate, creative mastery. Schliessmann joins those blessed with the mission to deliver Bach's vision in that fusion of ratio and eros, intellect and intuition, that endows the realization with poetic mystery. An hour-and-one-half spent on hallowed musical ground might suffice for a Sunday service.

The original version here:

(Dr. Gary Lemco)

The New Listener, Germany - "Auf Tuchfühlung mit dem Klavier", February 1, 2022
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After his 3-CD box set “Chronological Chopin”, which was released in 2016 and was highly acclaimed by the media, Burkard Schliessmann is now presenting a new collection of three CDs on Divine Art, entitled “At the Heart of the Piano”. It is an attempt to approach the piano as an instrument and to wring one’s deepest emotions from it. The title addresses the philosophical question of whether the piano, a first glance the most non-physical of all instruments, consisting largely of wood and metal, which produces a perfect tone by simply pressing a button without physical effort, can convey and express feelings at all, has a heart. Burkard Schliessmann wants to prove this with a very intimate repertoire that means a great deal to him and that brings together various aspects of the piano literature on three CDs). These are exclusively older recordings from the years 1990 (Scriabin), 1994 (Bach/Busoni and Berg), 1999 (Schumann Fantasy and Liszt) and 2000 (Schumann Etudes), which have either never been made or only in a small edition and regionally restricted have appeared, and they shine with new mastering in fresh splendor, so that they are now given the soundworld they deserve. Schliessmann used his own grand piano for all recordings; as a Steinway Artist this is a Steinway Piano D Concert Grand.

Burkard Schliessmann describes himself in his detailed accompanying text for the triple CD, which reveals both facts and personal views on the pieces, as a representative of the “great romantic tradition”. “Technical mastery is of course important, but my interpretations remain essentially intuitive. I don’t think about it and I don’t worry about the implementation of my interpretation.” Although this may certainly be true for the moment of the performance, he is thereby concealing the immense work that he had previously – must have had – with the works. Because it is unmistakable that Schliessmann has thought carefully about what he wants to say with the works and how his personal voice should flow into the notes. In the recordings he shows himself to be a pianist with a strong character who knows how to shape the works according to his ideas and thus tailor them to him. Schliessmann interprets the famous Chaconne in D minor by Johann Sebastian Bach in the virtuoso transcription of Ferruccio Busoni as an attempt to synthesize a baroque and an early modern style of playing. He saves the tempo rubato for special moments in order to maximize expression there.

Schumann is played by Burkard Schliessmann truly appassionato, taking the fantasy in a comparatively more classical way in order to be able to make the symphonic etudes all the more romantic and lively – but this impression may also be partly due to the different reverberation, because here the ambience is more apparent  in the etudes (while on the other hand the acoustics flatter the piano sound very clearly and clearly in the other recordings). In both pieces, the pianist uses clear tempo contrasts and rubato for a strong effect, separates individual passages from each other and thus gives the music a vivid, spontaneous, almost improvisational aspect. He plays with the reverberation of the pedal to develop orchestral sonority, although I would argue that he does not see the “symphonic” nature of the etudes in the imitation of certain orchestral instruments, but purely in relation to the differentiated tonal colors of the piano. Schliessmann also experiments with the relationship between the voices, which is clearly evident in variations four and sixteen: the melody remains clear, but always has to assert itself against the seething secondary voices, which makes for extremely exciting listening.

Franz Liszt’s daring Sonata in B minor, which was only recognized late by the public, presents Burkard Schliessmann in a quite aggressive manner; he lets the sound soar to unimagined heights and even takes the liberty to present some highlights violently – probably just like the great virtuoso and showman Liszt might have played it at the time to more deeply polarize the effect. But the fact that this is not Schliessmann’s top priority is shown by the deeply musical development of the themes and their modifications in the course of the piece, whereby he lends the main theme in particular an eerie, oppressive presence. In this way, he succeeds in creating an overall impression of a sophisticated psychological nature that appears to be unified and consistent in itself.

In the works by Alexander Scriabin, Burkard Schliessmann presents a program across all the composer’s creative periods, from the Etudes opp. 2 and 8 and the Préludes op. 11 to the Sonata in F sharp minor op. 23, which shows more individual writing, to the late Dances op. 73 and Préludes op. 74, which appear absolutely independent in the history of music in their spiritual appearance and the complex extended harmony. The flowing, freely presumptuous forms are in the instinctive playing of the pianist, who brings the individual moments to bloom while knowing how to hold the overall form together. The rhythmic polyphony between the hands or their individual voices spurs him on to maintain a high degree of delicacy, even in grandly triumphant passages. Schliessmann pushes the contrasts to extremes and thus shows even the early Scriabin as a modern, progressive composer.

The program closes with Alban Berg’s Sonata op. 1, a showpiece of early modernism and especially of free tonality, which however always reveals tonal relationships. Schliessmann creates a bridge between the second Viennese school and the ecstatic Scriabin, brings out a certain volume in Berg too and allows himself tempo-related liberties in order to underline the density of the polyphony. In this way, this stylistically uniform and yet versatile presentation of Schliessmann’s pianistic work succeeds, which, through the pianist’s highly personal views, brings us closer to masterpieces from different eras in a very human way and invites us to explore them.

The original here:

(Oliver Fraenzke)

Atlanta Audio Club, USA - Phils's Classical Reviews, January 2022
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“At the Heart of the Piano” is a 3-CD collection of dynamite recordings by Burkard Schliessman that really define him in terms of his distinctive profile as a pianist. The native of Aschafffenburg Germany has often been noted for his passion for using all the resouces of the instrument to get to the heart of the music and bring it out in all its expressive power and beauty. In that respect, he reminds me of the fondly remembered American pianist Earl Wild (1915-2010), especially in his accounts of the Romantics.

Speaking of which, his Schumann recordings call for special recognition. As I said of Schliessmann in a review some years ago, “he is the last sort of pianist you would expect to just play the notes as written, without comment.” The composer would certainly have approved. In his account of the Symphonic Etudes, which Schumann described as “etudes in the form of variations,” Schliessmann incorporates the five “posthumous etudes” that Brahms published after the composer’s death, carefully distributing them for best effect to fill out the harmony. That is no easy task, but carefully placed, these etudes add much in the way of searching, introspection, and exaltation to a work that is already distinguished for its wealth of color and for Schumann’s notable mastery in blending, contrasting, and superimposing timbres. Schliessmann takes all these issues in stride, making this an eminently satisfying account of one of the most difficult works in the repertoire.

He also does a fantastic job in Schumann’s Fantasia in C Major, Op. 17, a work marked by rhapsodic lyricism occasioned by trill structures, which are typically in downward motion, in the opening movement. It is succeeded by a march in the middle movement that culminates in sensational back-rhythms and syncopations that still have the power to astonish us today, and a finale whose harmonic structure conjures up the image of a star-filled night of which Schumann was doubtless thinking when he subtitled this movement “Crown of Stars.” The reader will note how the composer reversed the usual order of this slow movement, marked “thoroughly fantastic and sorrowfully laden” (Durchaus fantastisch und leidenschaftlich vorzutragen) and what then became the middle movement with its thumping fortes in the afore-mentioned march.

There follows Franz Liszt’s wonderful Sonata in B Minor, in which the dramatic tensions, and releases of the same, are in part a direct function of an unusual structure in which all the elements of sonata-allegro form (exposition, development, lead back, and recapitulation) are encompassed by a single movement, played continuously. Any pianist less knowledgeable than Burkard Schliessmann might easily end in disaster in a work that has also been unified by a considerable application of cyclical form, making it imperative to think ahead to where you are going. Carefully considered pauses, allowing the music room to breathe, powerful climaxes, hard-won struggle, and then a devotional atmosphere based on high, bright harp-like chords, and then a radiant conclusion sinking softly into near-inaudibility: all these and more contribute to the effectiveness of the B Minor Sonata in an informed interpretation. Schliessmann’s is one of the best, an inspiring triumph of faith and art.

The program actually begins with J S Bach’s famous Chaconne from Violin Partita No. 2 in the piano transcription by Ferruccio Busoni which is the first track on CD1. In retrospect, it seems as much of a work of Busoni as it is of Bach. Certainly, the changes of tonal color, dynamics, and increasingly dense harmonic effects are more easily accomplished and more effective than they would have been on the harpsichords available to Bach, as is Busoni’s extensive use of the pedal. On the other hand, Schliessmann has to work harder to achieve its demon pacing and high-energy rhythms on his modern Steinway D. The moments of calm and reflection that accompany heart-stopping key changes at about 7:10 and 10:55 in this performance have all the effect anyone might desire.

CD3 is dedicated solely to two composers whose work was absorbed in speculations about the future of music, Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915) and Alban Berg (1885-1935). They could not have been more different. Scriabin, the Russian, showed only the most casual reverence for received musical tradition. He was a visionary, in his quest for ever more brilliant tonal expression as well as in his own spiritual orientation, based on the Theosophy of Madame Blavatsky but going beyond that in his embrace of enraptured musical tones. His Sonata No. 1 in F-sharp minor, Op. 23, represents an early breakthrough, particularly in his choice of an extraordinarily rich and difficult key with no fewer than six sharps in its signature. The work has the requisite four movements of a classical sonata, to which it pays homage, but clearly Scriabin is interested in something other than thematic development. The final movement, Presto con fuoco, ends suddenly without a decisive finish, as if Scriabin had finished digging all the brilliantly colored musical ore in this particular mineshaft.

It would be easy to dismiss so many of this composer’s musical explorations as mere incontinent rhapsodizing (as some observers have continued to do to this day), but that would be to miss the point of what this composer was all about. In a 66-minute selection including Preludes, Etudes and Dances, Schliessmann presents Scriabin as a man on a quest for transcendently beautiful tonal expression in large forms as well as small. Using chains of thirds and transposable fourths, he created musical structures of great beauty. In the process, he also showed other composers what could be done with rich and rare keys they had generally avoided, such as G-flat major (six flats) and E-flat minor, also six flats. (Its enharmonic parallel is a more accessible F-sharp major). All this he did in the interest of music expression that might be darkly glowing, melancholy or ecstatic.

Someone like Scriabin is obviously a hard act to follow. So, what are we to say of the Austrian composer Alban Berg, whose 11-minute Piano Sonata, Op. 1, concludes the program? At the opening, flickering shy lights take the place of the dramatically compelling or quietly understated introduction we might have expected. As in the Liszt sonata, all the structural elements are subsumed in a single movement, but the thrust is quite different. We have here music that is still basically tonal, leading to musical structures in which melody and harmony are subjected to constant variation and interweaving. In Schliessmann’s sensitive performance, I found a down-to-earth warmth of human emotion that I had not expected to discover in a composer who was to be associated with the 12-tone music of the New Viennese School. For yours truly, that was a nice revelation. 

(Dr. Phil Muse)

Fanfare Magazine, USA - Volume 45, No. 3January / February 2022
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Having not been familiar with the keyboard art of Burkard Schliessmann, I approached his chosen program of “transcendence, vision, and personified aesthetics of effect” with some skepticism, if not a predisposition for cynicism. The recordings, previously unknown to me, derive from sessions made 1990–2000, here remastered by Paul Baily. To my sustained delight, Schliessmann reveals himself as a Romantic temperament deeply motivated by both intimacy and intuition, sustained by a wholesome and astonishing technical resource. His capacities in contrapuntal music assert themselves fully and without pedantry in Busoni’s transcription of Bach’s Chaconne from the Partita No. 2, the Schumann Symphonic Études and Fantasie, and in the heroic, stratified figures in the Liszt Sonata, even before he wrestles with the intricacies of Scriabin, whose miniatures often prove more mechanically daunting than his larger forms. The placement and order of the assembled works no less contributes to the cumulative effect of the evolution of a Romantic ethos, an increasingly subjective outlook that subsumes reality into an affirmation of selfhood.

What proves consistent in this traversal of essentially Romantic repertory emanates from the pianist’s sense of space and of individual coloring. Much in the tradition of Cherkassky and Michelangeli, Schliessmann allots each of the evolving musical lines its own breadth, which becomes instantly apparent in the various permutations in the Bach piece and in virtually every line in the Schumann Fantasie. The art of applying silence between notes and distinct musical lines never fails to make or to undo a dramatic performance. In this regard, I find Schliessmann eminently theatrical in style, compelling in the grand line he assumes for each of his endeavors. The Schumann Symphonic Études enjoy their proclaimed “symphonic” ambitions, certainly. But in incorporating the full set of Schumann’s posthumous and various appendices Schliessmann burdens himself with the problem of musical and dramatic continuity, having to sustain a canvas that now spreads out well beyond established time parameters, at almost 40 minutes.

If my remarks seem to suggest a highly “contrived” sensibility, let me assure possible auditors of the miraculous power of spontaneity that permeates these realizations. The Liszt Sonata regains much its shocking originality, its tempestuous and outrageous shifts of mood and musical means, especially in the manipulation of its Grund-Gestalt, its through-composed opening motifs and the subsequent harmonic audacities that follow. The Schumann Fantasie and the Liszt Sonata, works coincidentally dedicated reciprocally by each composer, occupy the same disc, providing an hour’s unrelenting display of controlled, intelligent passion in the same paradoxical moment. The immanence of the urge to poetry suffuses every musical impulse. We sense as we move to the music of Alexander Scriabin and the “new” school of Alban Berg that the keyboard instrument has gained an increased sense of liberation in its power to express subjective reality, even as traditional harmony breaks down. True, we have skipped over the contributions of Beethoven and Chopin, a substantial break in the history of keyboard transcendentalism. But in compensation, Schliessmann turns in disc 3 to a concentrated survey of the Russian mystic Scriabin, all too easily dismissed as an eccentric, musical solipsist who always spells Reality with a capital I.

Schliessmann opens his Scriabin sequence with the 1898 Third Sonata, meant to express the composer’s flights of the soul toward liberation. The oceanic imagery Scriabin invokes for the last two movements, no less based on cyclical motifs and transposable fourth chords, intensifies the paradoxical sense of unity in the midst of free-fall. Schliessmann provides a pungent, searching sonority to the music’s nervous rhythms and ardent declamations. His third movement Andante finds a moment for childlike simplicity. Schliessmann’s left hand helps catapult the last movement, Presto con fuoco, to a Tristan-inspired paroxysm of energy, the “uproar of life,” fraught with fervent rebellion. The taut, forward motion may remind auditors of the classic Horowitz approach. As in his Schumann, Schliessmann applies a canny soft pedal, when required. Schliessmann concedes to popular taste for the moment, performing the two most famous études, those in C♯ Minor and D♯ Minor, with the op. 2/1 providing an immediate contrast to the emotional throes of Sonata No. 3. The famed D♯-Minor returns to the primal passions, insistent and voluptuous. Schliessmann then turns to the variegated world of Scriabin’s 90 preludes, of which the op. 11 set (1888–96) follows Chopin in his arrangement in the circle of fifths, and varying the form of these pieces as nocturnes, études, and mazurkas. A fine example occurs in the E Major, No. 9, in which Scriabin avoids the tonic triad until the end, and Schliessmann’s attentions to designations rubato, ritardando, and accelerando create a poised nocturne tinged by mazurka rhythm. The use of parallel motion in sixths in No. 13 reminds us of Bach as well as Chopin. The pattern of sixths informs the Andante cantabile, op. 16/3, to create its restrained angst. The preludes of 1900, op. 27, reveal a new and rich assertiveness. The Prelude in B Major, op. 27/2, from Schliessmann has a luxuriant abandon, a fertile reverie. Schliessmann plays the Prelude in A Minor, op. 51/2, Lugubre, which the composer avoided in his public performances. The music imparts an eerie atmosphere, somewhat in the manner of late Liszt. Scriabin called it “a ghastly piece!” Fluttering motives define the Dance languide in G Major, op. 51/4, which hesitates and then ends as one of Schliessmann’s riddles.

***** A grand and intimately impassioned odyssey of the Romantic piano
(Dr. Gary Lemco)

Fanfare Magazine, USA - Volume 45, No. 3January / February 2022
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This commanding, almost regal selection of recordings from Burkard Schliessmann was recorded 1990–2000. It is a shining example of integrity and intelligence in music, welded to a technique of gargantuan proportions. There is logic guiding in the programming also: The Liszt Sonata and Schumann Fantasie bear mutual dedications, while the worlds of Scriabin and Berg are hardly a million miles from one another. This is the first digital issue of all tracks on this set.

The three-disc set therefore posits one route from Bach (in Busoni’s granitic hands) to Scriabin and Berg. The Bach/Busoni Chaconne is a fine performance, big-boned and captured in superb sound that really allows one to enjoy the strength of the bass of Schliessmann’s Steinway piano. In this context, the sober, chordal opening of the Schumann could almost be by Busoni; as the variations unravel, the piece could only be by Schumann. Schliessmann includes the posthumous variations in what becomes a panoramic journey through myriad vistas: Schliessmann’s ability to utilize tone color within stylistic bounds is something any pianist could learn from profitably. Textures are always carefully considered (the tremolos of Variation 16 being a case in point), while the finale is as brilliant as its indication requires, and, most importantly, properly cumulative in context, ending in what amounts to a pianistic pealing of bells. As Schliessmann pointed out to me in an interview once, no less a figure than Brahms included the posthumous variations, so it makes sense to do so.

It is fascinating how, while being part of a larger whole, each individual disc operates as a cycle within itself. So, one has the Bach/Busoni and the Schumann above, perfectly contained and with a real sense of inevitability of continuity; the second disc has those pieces of mutual admiration, the Schumann Fantasie and the Liszt B-Minor Sonata, both major masterpieces of the Romantic era. The sense of grandeur we heard particularly in the Bach/Busoni recurs in the first movement of the Schumann Fantaise, while the tricky second movement holds no perils for Schliessmann (and he maintains the indication Durchaus energisch: energetic throughout). One of Schliessmann’s core properties is that he can bend his sound and way with tempo to each individual composer perfectly, and we certainly feel that here. He creates two separate sound worlds: Schumann’s is full of fantasy, as if trying to escape the world’s strictures and limitations to ascend Heavenwards (one certainly feels that is how the songful finale operates, with those themes ascending ever upwards, garnished with delicious celestial decorations in the high treble), while Liszt’s sublimity is more sensual, more demonic. One hears the prefiguring of the dark nights of Liszt’s very late works in the sonata’s opening, and this colors the octave explosion: yes, we hear virtuosity, but it is part of an over-riding diablerie. While Schumann ascends radiantly, Liszt struggles with his inner demons to do so, and Schliessmann leaves us in no doubt of the power of that struggle. The fine piano he plays on is part of this; it is clearly a majestic instrument, sublimely prepared. Schliessmann’s slower sections have a distinct simmer underneath them, ready to explode into headier regions. It is this mix of visceral excitement combined with a tour guide who always has the end in sight that is so impressive, so that when the end comes, we feel we have come full circle and the journey can begin again. Both the Schumann Fantasie and the Liszt B-Minor sit up there with the greats: Pollini’s DG accounts of both are classics, another pianist with a fierce musical intellect, but Schliessmann offers an alternative that is just as engrossing.

***** This is a most thought-provoking set, overflowing with performances of insight, and beautifully recorded.
(Colin Clarke)

Fanfare Magazine, USA - Volume 45, No. 3January / February 2022
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At the Heart of the Piano, a three-disc release from Divine Art, presents German pianist Burkard Schliessmann in a recital of works by Bach (arr. Busoni), Schumann, Liszt, Scriabin, and Berg. The Bach/Busoni Chaconne and Berg Sonata receive their first release on this set. All the other recordings were previously issued by Bayer. The included Scriabin works were recorded in July, 1990, the Bach/Busoni Chaconne and Berg Sonata in 1994, the Schumann Fantasie and Liszt B-Minor Sonata in September 1999, and the Schumann Symphonic Études in March 2000. The new Divine Art set features 2021 remasterings by Paul Baily of all the included material. In the CD booklet’s extensive and informative liner notes, the uncredited author (Schliessmann, perhaps?) states: “Although at (a) glance the works offered here do not share any direct common ground, if considered more closely there are certain common factors with regard to their genesis over time and their conception….” Indeed, there are many elements that connect the works, and in an intriguing fashion. The composers appear in order of their birth years (if we use the “Bach” in “Bach/Busoni” as our start). Within that time progression, each of the three discs explores particular aspects of musical expression. Disc 1, comprising the Bach/Busoni Chaconne and the Schumann Symphonic Études, focuses on theme and variation structures. The second disc pairs the Schumann Fantasie in C Major with the Liszt B-Minor Sonata. Each of the composers dedicated his work to the other. Here Schumann and Liszt, in addition to writing music demanding a virtuoso of the highest order, explore the structural boundaries of the traditional piano sonata (and for that matter, sonata form). The final disc charts the trajectory of Scriabin’s increasingly daring harmonic world, a gateway to Berg’s atonality.

***** Accomplished performances spanning Bach/Busoni to Berg, by pianist Burkard Schliessmann
(Ken Meltzer)

Music Voice, Italy - "Burkard Schliessmann e l'ombelico del Romanticismo"; December 28, 2021
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Burkard Schliessmann is one of the currently most appreciated and interesting German pianists at an international level and already boasts a large discography, mainly focused on composers who belong to the European Romantic school. Even his latest recording, a box set comprising three CDs published by Divine Art, does not differ from this principle, as the title itself, “At the Heart of the Piano”,  demonstrates,  The set presents Bach’s Chaconne in D minor in the transcription by Busoni, the Symphonic Studies Op. 12 and the Fantasia in C major Op. 17 by Schumann, the inevitable Sonata in B minor by Liszt;  we have from Scriabin the Sonata in F sharp minor Op. 23, two Studies from Op. 8 and Op. 12, Preludes from Op. 11, Op. 16 and Op. 37 and the Two Dances of Op. 73 and the Five Preludes of Op. 74, ending with the Sonata Op. 1 of Berg.

Considering this program more carefully, on the basis of Schliessmann’s aesthetic vision, one can easily realize how the works and composers can be seen as an explanatory map of musical Romanticism, based not so much on a philosophy to be proposed through the overall sound, but more by  rigorous formal study in which the key content of Romantic thought can be expresed without entering into contrast with what is exposed by the form itself. In this sense, Bach’s famous Chaconne, revised and enunciated by Ferruccio Busoni, is already symptomatic; the choice that Schliessmann makes is not in exalting the transcendental dimension with which this piece is usually presented, but by involving more the immanent aspect, that is the sensitive perception of the artist who performs it. The Chaconne, therefore, seen not in the Bachian vision mediated by Busoni’s technicality, but through the (late) Romanticism of the composer and pianist from Empoli, detaching himself from the pure spiritual dimension that inevitably invests Bach’s music, shapes the primeval matter according to the modalities and the urgencies of one’s time. From here, the technique itself becomes a form of transcendentality with which to draw the prerogatives of a vision, the Romantic one or at least of what remains of it, which observes, reflects and offers itself to the ear, heart and brain of those who listens.

But pay attention to an aspect that distinguishes the path of the program chosen by the German pianist, namely that there is a red thread that links each work in the recording to the next, not taking into account the chronological discrepancies of the program itself. Therefore, the Busoni who mediates and “actualizes” Bach is very close to that technical transcendentality evoked by both Schumann and Liszt, that is, by two custodians of the “sacred” Romantic vision. That is why, in the name of this “transcendentality”, Schliessmann continues his exploration of the Romantic genre, first with Schumann’s Symphonic Studies and Fantasia and then with the Liszt Sonata. And how does he deal with these pages? The Symphonic Studies undergo dilations and restrictions in the metronome, but this must not cause scandal, as the German artist bridges the possible time lags by frescoing the theme and the variations of this composition with a due passion, such as to give life to a sort of “story” (the “imaginative” Schumann that makes the art of sounds cross over into narrative and literary structures) that unfolds with a coloristic sagacity given to each of the twelve Studies, a color that Schliessmann exalts above all by emphasising the play of tonality given by the chromatic keys and the technique to be used on the basis of the same indications provided by Schumann, which leads to giving life to a timbral fresco that for some may even be exaggerated in its final result (there is effectism, pathos, emotional impetus; but, by God, are we or are we not in the heart of piano Romanticism?) This all however fully falls within the vision that Schliessmann wanted to impose here, which shows how this pianist does not at all suffer from a lack of personality, on the contrary. Hence, abundant monumentalism (Track X – Variation IX), but also soft, rounded brushstrokes, made crystalline (Track XI – Variation X and Track XII – Variation XI), that is, in the very heart of Op. 13, to better highlight the bipolar antagonism of the Schumannian personality, with Florestano and Eusebio going into the ring to give them a blessing.

Such monumentality and delicacy are consistently maintained also in the Fantasia Op. 17, which, as we know, is above all (see the first movement) a passionate and heartfelt act of love towards Clara Wieck and which Schliessmann explores with powerful, full, open, solemn sounds, giving an “architectural” identity to his pianism, in order to solidify the image of the “phantastisch”, as per Schumann’s indications. But also in this case the projection is valid, the “throwing-forward” with which the German artist permeates the entire program in question, that is, preparing the listener for the irruption of the Lisztian Sonata (chronologically, the Fantasia dates back to 1836, while the Sonata in B minor is from 1852 and is dedicated to Schumann). Schliessmann, therefore, ideally builds a bridge, a connection between the passion that seeks to be form, given by the Fantasia op. 13, with a form, precisely, that throws his cloak to the winds to rise to the most free, free from the impositions given by the classicism of the genre; he does it to remember once again how in just sixteen years, those that separate the two works, two worlds that while reconciled in their creative intentionality, are at the same time like two galaxies destined to expand and move away in space.

Here, too, the German pianist does not deny the characteristics of his program, since the reading of the Lisztian Sonata is devoted to yet another “look-ahead”, prefiguring, anticipating, acting as a precursor to what will come after and what Schliessmann justifiably identifies in Scriabin. But let’s go in order. The vision that the German pianist brings to the surface of Liszt’s Sonata is not only devoted to monumentality of form (an element inherited from the past, especially Schumann), but is based on a sound that is increasingly circumscribed in it, that is, enhancing the single sound as a self-referential datum, as a completely autonomous cell that compares itself with the other cells that precede it and with those that follow it. A sound, therefore, decidedly devoted to a modernity that if on the one hand will be deepened by Brahmsian pianism (the one that will fascinate Schönberg), on the other hand it will be faced by Scriabin’s visionary nature.  Scriabin, whose pianism, together with that of Debussy, explores up to essence of the cellular element given by the harmonic conception which is transformed acoustically into a dimension in its own right and which at the same time manages to interpenetrate the other timbral dimensions that surround it and of which it is necessarily part.

And here we come to the third and last disc of this set and which I personally consider the most intriguing and stimulating. Schliessmann has included Sonata no. 3 Op. 23, the Etudes no. 1 Op. 2 and no. 12 Op. 8, the Preludes nos. 1, 3, 9, 10, 13, 14 Op. 11, nos. 3 & 4 Op. 16, nos. 1 & 2 Op. 27, nos. 2 & 3 Op. 37 and nos. 2 & 4 Op. 51;  the Two dances Op. 73 and, finally, the Five Preludes Op. 74. If, in the words of Francis Bacon, the Schumannian Fantasia is given by the pars construens provided by Clara Wieck, the Sonata by Scriabin is modeled on the pars destruens of Vera Isakovic, the unfortunate consort of the Russian composer, who realized ever since his nuptial trip to Paris in 1897 of having made a tragic mistake in marrying her. Thus, if the Fantasia is musically a unifying part, the Sonata on the contrary is devoted to a disintegrating dimension. This disintegration is already an attempt to flesh out the sound, to make it closed in itself through a process of timbral legitimisation in which the phrasing already tends to fragment, to “sectorize”, as well as being, although in its emotional arrogance, more and more diaphanous, rarefied, almost suspended over the abyss of nothingness.

In his interpretation, Schliessmann instead tends to recover a formal legitimacy that allows one to still manifest a sort of “hope”, so that the phrasing is more fluid, less “bumpy”. This does not mean that a rethinking of the vision of “looking forward” is taking place in his interpretation, but it represents a reconsidering in perspective what will come in Scriabin’s musical poetics. Thus, the German pianist takes the Sonata no. 3 so that he draws a line of demarcation between what is still Romanticism and its passing phase, which in the Russian composer cannot be accurately defined as Late Romanticism per se. The disintegration, in this sense, materializes in the exposition and in its development and at last, in the  “Presto con fuoco” which is the tenuous explosion of a continuity that is linked to what was stated at the beginning of the Sonata. And it is here that Schliessmann’s “reconsideration” transforms the “Presto con fuoco” into a launch pad through which to launch a missile whose expressive consistency is represented by the other works by the Russian composer included in this set.

And this has happened since the two included Etudes, in which the sound matter already manifests a change in progress in anticipation of what is destined to take place if it does not come true, that is, that Scriabin would have reached the archipelago of atonality by following a path different from that of Schönberg and the others belonging to the Second Vienna School. This happens from the Étude in C sharp minor which belongs to the Three Pieces of Op. 2 (dating back to 1886-89) and the last of the twelve Études op. 8 which are from 1894-95. These are two Studies that for Schliessmann evidently belong to that process of planning that lays the foundations for starting that specific alternative path to modernity, a modernity, mind you, which does not, however, deny what happened previously.

And here the Preludes taken into consideration, those belonging to Op. 11, Op. 16, Op. 27, Op. 37 and Pp. 51, appear to be nothing short of idiomatic in the choice of the German artist and represent a miracle of “oscillation”, a pendulum that passes alternately between what is still past (Op. 11 no. 9 – Op. 16 no. 3 – Op . 27 no. 2 – Op. 37 no. 3) and what is already future (Op. 11 no. 3 – Op. 27 no. 1 – Op. 51 nos. 2 & 4). Faced with such a choice that intends to show the Scriabinian two-faced Janus, it can and must appear completely obvious that the great final step is represented for the German pianist by the two last piano compositions of the Russian composer, namely the Deux Danses Op. 73 and the Cinq Préludes Op. 74, both dating to 1914, that is to say a year before his death. These two works are, as we know, intimately connected and represent, as Schliessmann points out with his reading of him, the ultimate offshoots of that romantic tension conceived within his aesthetic tradition.

Of course, especially the Op. 74 necessarily refers to the contemporary Six Pieces Op. 19 by Schönberg, an emblem of that process of harmonic dissolution that will inevitably lead to the concretization of seriality, but neither Op. 73 or Op. 74  boast the same purposes, as Scriabin, beyond the mystical intentions to which these last two piano works were designed, are extensions of a past that certainly looks ahead, but is not yet the future, as is perhaps the Schönberg Op. 19. This is why the interpretation made by the German pianist follows this “prudential” line, never pushed into formal excesses, and this is especially true for the Cinq Préludes, since their enunciation aims at least to be “nostalgic”, that is to say, of a past, in his tradition, which senses the moment of change, of passing away, of an end that can no longer be postponed (in this sense, the timbre dimension that Schliessmann provides in the second Prelude Op. 74 is exquisitely evocative).

Nostalgia has been stated. So, to conclude his program dedicated to Romantic transmutation in the piano, a transmutation with an alchemical flavor at times, Schliessmann puts his hand to Berg’s Sonata, which, just to underline the aesthetic purposes of the recording in question, is not addressed in its “radicality ”, but as a sign of something that has by now been lost, a footprint of an ancient stone that wants to be a milestone, that is, to act as a watershed between the (late) Romantic vision and the post-Romantic one. Following this path, I find that Schliessmann, at a piano level, does not differ from what Karl Böhm did at the directorial level by addressing Berg’s ‘Wozzeck’, therefore not considering it as an expressionist creature, a suspended bridge towards ‘Lulu’, but as the ultimate expression of a late Romanticism that was struggling to exhale the last breath.

From here, those who are familiar with the readings made, among others, by Glenn Gould of this Sonata, get ready for a performance by the German pianist in which the few motivic cells that animate it are never exaggerated, or brought to a point of tension close to rupture, but his reading is conceived as a repudiation of fragmentation, a look forward with a look backwards, also because Op. 1 itself is basically an act of gratitude towards that tradition (the Sonata dates back to the two-year period 1907-08, only to be revised by the author in 1920) which at that time is beginning to fall apart (and in this we follow the coeval path taken in parallel by Scriabin himself in that first decade on a sonatic level). Schliessmann thus uses the palette of a passion which, however, now smacks of consummation, a supreme act, a corollary that ideally closes the circle of his journey towards the funeral of Romanticism, returning an unsuspected evocative sweetness, a very fine shroud with which to wrap the corpse, so as to be able to preserve it from the corrosion of time and memory. So be it.

The recordings were made at three different times by as many engineers (ranging from 1990 to 2021), but we do not notice timbral and dynamic imbalances in the use of the piano, rigorously always a Steinway Piano D. Therefore, the dynamics always turns out to be strong, but at the same time sensitive and careful in restoring the necessary nuances of microdynamics; the sound stage adequately reconstructs the instrument at a discrete spatial depth, restoring a pleasant height in the sound, as well as filling the space between the speakers. Even the tonal balance and detail do not fail, with the first always precise in making the low and medium-high register always distinct and never blurred, and with the second showing a remarkable materiality in the physical rendering of the piano.

The Original here:

(Dr. Andrea Bedetti)

International Piano, UK - October 2021
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All of the pieces on this impressive triple album aim at some sort of transcendence. The Bach/Busoni Chaconne is at once a tribute to Bach and a pinnacle of the Romantic piano virtuoso repertoire. Schliessmann's account is noble yet kaleidoscopic. As Busoni pulls Bach into his orbit, so the piano seems to expand into a protoorgan. Schliessmann's intuitive grasp of the work's structure allows him to mould it naturally while retaining the underlying form. Its outsized ending leaves the listener feeling replete.

The limpid, descending phrase that opens Schumann's Symphonic Studies comes as balm to the soul after such high drama. Schliessmann's commanding performance is beautifully variegated. He is right to follow Brahms' approach by including Schumann's posthumously published variations. Grandeur meets tenderness in a performance that suggests Schliessmann's complete resonance with the spirit of Schumann. The coupling of mutually dedicated works on the second disc works well. Schumann's Op 17 Fantasie and Liszt's Sonata in B minor are like two sides of the same Romantic coin. Schumann's writing is utterly individual and Schliessmann's performance is gloriously unbuttoned. The Liszt also receives a fine performance, unrushed in the slower sections, playful and diabolic when the tempo picks up. Schliessmann's technique is rock solid, his command reminding me of Daniil Trifonov in the music's stormier sections. He masterfully navigates the expansive lyricism that lies at the heart of Liszt's masterwork.

The crowning glory of the set, though, is Schliessmann's Scriabin. His performance of the composer's Third Sonata (F-sharp minor Op 23) is magnificently powerful, while the six excerpts from the Op 11 set of Preludes are exquisitely moulded. The two Danses Op 73 and five Op 74 Preludes resonate in perfect harmony with Scriabin's elusive late style. Schliessmann conjures a glittering yet liminal space, supported not only by his fine Steinway but also by the Divine Art recording and piano technician Georges Ammann, who Schliessmann describes as 'the best in the world, and the most prominent piano technician from Steinway' (Ammann only collaborates with five pianists, of whom Schliessmann is one).

The Berg Sonata arises from the fire of Scriabin's Op 74/5 like a phoenix soaring in a post-Tristan world. Schliessmann's considered, polished reading, impeccable in its realisation of complex textures, is a model of its kind. This, coupled with a prevailing crepuscular tendresse gives Schliessmann's reading warmth and academic integrity, bringing his thought-provoking album to a perfect close.

(Colin Clarke)

Audiophile Sound, Italy - September 2018
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This double LP contains famous Chopinian works (from the Ballades nos. 1, 3 and 4 to the Scherzi nos. 2 and 4; from the Polonaise-Fantaisie to the Barcarolle), performed by one of the greatest German interpreters, Burkard Schliessmann. The recordings first appeared on an SACD from the same label that now presents them on its first audiophile vinyl album. Schliessmann is a remarkable interpreter of Bach, and this background enables him to face Chopin with an approach which, if it betrays an analytical element, at the same time has no lack of passion, heat and poignancy, and shows the brilliant Polish composer as an inheritor of the harmonic conquests of the Kantor.

Artistic Interpretation: Exceptional
Technical quality: Optimal
(Andrea Bedetti)

Fanfare Magaine, USA - Not To Be Missed! - Volume 42, No. 1—September / October 2018
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What we have here is a two lp collection of Chopin pieces recorded between 2009 and 2013 by a pianist whose Chopin, including these performances, has been amply praised in these pages by a series of my colleagues. Based on his annotations, I assume, Schliessmann has been repeatedly called an intellectual: interestingly, we are typically told that this trait doesn’t tarnish his playing. That playing is bold, certainly on these lps rich in tone, and virtuosic.
I was surprised by the opening of the first Ballade, which seemed to present the theme almost in pieces, as in a conversation rather than a flow. It’s an approach that works beautifully in the Scherzo in B flat minor, for instance. Perhaps an intellectual Chopin player is one who points out the structural devices more clearly than another. Mostly I am, like my colleagues, convinced, if not swept away, by Schliessmann’s rich sounding, carefully articulated playing, by his occasional tenderness as well as his almost majestic playing elsewhere. As for the recording, I note that Stephen Sutton has been given credit for digital remastering of this music for the lps. This is not a direct-to-disc collection, but the piano sound is impressive by any standards.
(Michael Ullmann)

New Classics, UK - March / April 2018
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Burkard Schliessmann has been distinguished by the award of three Silver Medals at the Global Music Awards 2017 – as instrumentalist and ‘classical artist’ and for his spectacular Divine Art album ‘Chronological Chopin’. Divine Art’s first vinyl release is a selection of tracks from this triple SACD, which received glowing reviews from music critics the world over. An audiophile two-disc set recorded and mastered at 24-bit quality, this is a rare opportunity to obtain new recordings of Chopin’s masterpieces in the best sound and by a compelling interpreter. German pianist Burkard Schliessmann is a performer with a passion and vision – to seek out and interpret the forms, colours and textures, indeed the soul and expression: the poetic impact, of works we believe have already been fully explored.
His previous recordings have received worldwide acclaim – ‘Schliessmann is too good a pianist for anyone to pass on this.’ – American Record Guide. Chopin is above all his composer of choice to whom he has devoted endless hours of study and appreciation.
Pressed in 180-gram blue vinyl by Pallas of Berlin in a luxury gatefold sleeve, this is a true collector’s edition. Sound quality is warm yet precise, matching Schliessmann’s sensuous and brilliant performances of this sublime music. The nine tracks include Ballades Nos. 1, 3 & 4, the impressionistic Barcarolle in F sharp minor, the dramatic Scherzo No. 2 in B flat minor, and the breathtaking Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major. Highly recommended.
(John Pitt)

Audio Video Club of Atlanta - Phil's Classical Reviews, July 2016
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Alexander Brailowsky always said that the technique used to play Chopin's music should be "fluent, fluid, delicate, airy, and capable of great variety of color." That is easier said than done. One also has to observe the formal structure of Chopin’s music in order to bring out the poetry, or else all you will have is incontinent rhapsodizing, which is definitely not the impression one gets in Chopin’s music or Schliessmann’s performances of it. In his discussion of Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op. 61, the artist stresses that the maestoso character of this work calls for something that will, in the words of Franz Liszt, “bear the load, maintain equilibrium, and yet remain weightless.” In the last analysis, that is something that is to be perceived intuitively (a quality for which Schliessmann is well-known, by the way) rather than described and notated objectively. As we Americans say, “You either have it, or you don’t.” Burkard Schliessmann certainly has it.
From the point of view of the performer, the key to success, as Burkard shows us, is to be constantly vigilant for changes in metre, tempi, texture, and phrasing, as the music changes from gentle and deceptively naïve to powerfully intense and back again without warning, occasioning various degrees of tension and relaxation. In addition to this, Burkard Schliessmann brings his unique feeling for luminous color to the music to help bring out its inner life. Among pianists, there are so-called “colorists” and others who are basically attuned to form and structure. It is difficult to recall another artist in my recent experience who combines both traits as effectively as this one does. All of which, of course, makes “Chronological Chopin” such a memorable experience.

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(Dr. Phil Muse)

International Piano - May / June 2016
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This programme shows intelligent planning. Burkard Schliessmann's exhaustive booklet note explains his approach. Perhaps following up his earlier Bach release on the Divine Art label, he favours 'crystalline clarity' over 'falsely applied emotionalism'... the absence of featherweight or overwhelming extremes.
Much thought must have gone into this set, recorded over six years, and the sound-quality is magnificent.
(Michael Round)

Gapplegate Classical Modern Music - Burkard Schliessmann, Chronological Chopin, Solo Piano - Highly recommended - April  12, 2016
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Burkard Schliessmann gives us impassioned readings, beautifully, poetically realized performances with maximum affective impact yet full command of the notes ... in short he gives us near ideal readings, on the warm side of the possibilities, the interpretive side rather than the supercharged virtuoso-centered side.
It is a beautiful set, really rather remarkable. Schliessmann brings to the music a special understanding. Highly recommended!
(Grego Edwards)

Music and Vision - CD SPOTLIGHT - Deeply Probing; Chopin piano music - recommended by GERALD FENECH; March 19, 2016
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'... a lovely and singing tone ...'

Ever since music started being recorded way back at the end of the nineteenth century, Chopin's piano works have always been blessed with an unending torrent of interpretations by some of history's greatest performers. To our great joy and delight, these legendary renditions have been captured on disc or some other musical medium to be left for posterity; so, one may ask, what is so new about this 3 CD set under review? From a musical point of view, Burkard Schliessmann interprets the various pieces with a lovely and singingtone, and his phrasing, which in Chopin is wholly pivotal, is imaginative and deeply probing.

What makes this project so interesting is the sequence of how these works were planned for taping, hence the name of the album. Chronological Chopin offers the listener fourteen masterpieces from Chopin's oeuvre in the historical order of composition, thus giving one the opportunity to delve into the spirit of one of history's most fragile and sensitive composers, and discover bit by bit the evolving process of his art and innermost emotional turmoil as they unfolded throughout his short life.

Schliessmann's music making has much to admire, and his pianistic finesse and keyboard gentleness suit Chopin's poetic inventions to perfection. Indeed, his flawless pianistic sheen has an unfailing poise and lucidity that puts him at the forefront of today's leading pianists.

The soloist must also be lauded for his exhilarating essay that encapsulates both the technical and historical aspects of the music with unbridled mastery.
An innovative Chopin adventure in luscious sound and presentation which I recommend unreservedly, even to the composer's most ardent admirers.

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(Gerald Fenech)

Frankfurter Neue Presse, FNP - March 11, 2016, «Der CD-Tipp», "Chopin zeigt Wirkung"
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Chopin is one of the favorite composer of piano virtuoso Burkard Schliessmann. In his new recording " Chronological Chopin " ( Divine Art), the internationally renowned pianist takes on three CDs a very enlightening journey through the works of Chopin, from the early Scherzo op. 20 and the Ballade op. 23 on the 24 Preludes, Op. 28 to towards the late Polonaise - Fantaisie op . 61.

Here Schliessmann emphasises the intimate essence of the music but without sentimentality. His playing is spirited and brilliant, but shuns the external effect – this is music of noblesse instead of glittering mirage! Every sound is at the right depth, is illuminated in its context, never losing sight of the overall piece . But what most impressed is the almost Bachian clarity with which Schliessmann reveals the structures and lines of Chopin's composition.

Chopin zeigt Wirkung
Chopin gehört zu den Lieblingskomponisten des Klaviervirtuosen Burkard Schliessmann. In seiner neuen Einspielung "Chronological Chopin" (Divine Art) unternimmt der international renommierte Pianist auf drei CDs einen sehr erhellenden Streifzug durch das Schaffen Chopin, angefangen vom frühen Scherzo op. 20 und der Ballade op. 23 über die 24 Préludes op. 28 bis hin zur späten Polonaise-Fantaisie op. 61. Dabei gelingt Schliessmann eine intime Seelenschau ohne Gefühlsduselei. Sein Spiel ist temperamentvoll und brillant, scheut aber den äußeren Effekt - Noblesse statt glitzerndem Blendwerk! Jeder Ton bekommt seine Tiefenwirkung, wird in seinem Energiefeld ausgeleuchtet, ohne dass der Blick fürs Ganze verloren geht. Was aber am meisten beeindruckt, ist die fast Bachsche Klarheit, mit der Schliessmann Struktur und Linienführung Chopins offenbart.
(Michael Dellith)

American Record Guide, USA - Volume 79, No. 2—March / April 2016
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I rank this Chopin among the best available. With both the technique and intellect to do just about anything he wants, Schliessmann's strength is in the lyrical, legato melodies that make Chopin's music such a cornerstone of the piano repertoire. I would go out of my way to hear Schliessmann play any group of these in concert. His approach to all of the music is worthy of study and repays careful listening. The piano sound is spectacular and the booklet notes informative and comprehensive.
(James Harrington)

Fanfare-Magazin, USA - Not To Be Missed! - Volume 39, No. 4—March / April 2016
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Schliessman's performance of the Scherzo blazes with a fire so bright one can't help but wonder that if this is what he opens with, what does he do for an encore? Burkard Schliessmann has much artistry and poetry to communicate ... and he makes listening to Chopin in large doses an unusually enjoyable experience for me. The rest of pieces on these three discs are all performed by Burkard with equally impressive technical address, attention to expressive detail, and gorgeous tone drawn from his magnificent Steinway grand. Complementing this are the stunning SACD recordings, which capture the subtlest gradations in dynamics with amazing clarity and that take the thunderous climaxes in easeful stride. If Burkard Schliessmann can instill in me, admittedly not a great admirer of Chopin, a higher appreciation of his music than I have heretofore experienced, imagine the effect Burkard will have on those whose love of Chopin is already vouchsafed.
(Jerry Dubins)

Fanfare-Magazin, USA - Not To Be Missed! - Volume 39, No. 4—March / April 2016
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It is, frankly, good to report on a young pianist who concentrates on pianistic color and still respects the music's structure. As an alternative method of Chopin interpretation alone, Schliessmann is worth hearing for every pianist and every student of Chopin's music. Schliessmann regularly finds beauties in these scores others are lucky if they hint at. [In] the C sharp minor Preludehe indeed offers a performance of such exquisite cantabile and such enshrouded pain coupled with luminous textures that one forgets all others while listening. I doubt there is a more beautiful Fourth Ballade on record, nor a more beautifully recorded one. A remarkable set, in many ways.
(Colin Clarke)

Fanfare-Magazin, USA - Not To Be Missed! - Volume 39, No. 4—March / April 2016
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A pianist with a big, luxuriant tone, exceptional technique, and considerable sensitivity and intelligence. All of these virtues are deployed on Chronological Chopin . This is an album with the highest aspirations for expressing the composer's muse, and in general those aspirations are met. The sound engineering on the CD layer is warm and full. Schliessmann's liner notes are extensive and enlightening. Schliessmann will persuade you of the greatness of Chopin to a degree matched by few other pianists.
(Dave Saemann)

Fanfare-Magazin, USA - Not To Be Missed! - Volume 39, No. 4—March / April 2016
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A Golden Age Pianist

This compendium of major piano works by Chopin is a fascinating merger of biography and autobiography. Under the album title of Chronological Chopin, we follow the composer’s development—or lack of it—from Scherzo No. 1, op. 20 (composed 1831–35), to the Polonaise-Fantaisie, op. 61 (from 1846). Schliessmann has been dedicated to Chopin for decades, and he provides extensive, very personal notes on his approach to the music and how it has matured to the present moment.

This exploration centers directly on whether Chopin did, in fact, develop or was possessed of such full-blown mastery that, as Scriabin declared, he showed no further development over the course of his creative career. In practice Schliessmann approaches this criticism—if it is a criticism—in terms of Chopin’s allegiance to tradition versus his urge to revolutionize the piano. We’re reminded that when he arrived in Mallorca in the winter of 1838–39, Chopin brought with him Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, which he immersed himself in as he was composing the 24 Preludes. This and other observations cause Schliessmann to argue that clarity and structure are among the most important aspects of Chopin interpretation.

One interesting section in the program booklet contains a series of quotes about the composer from other famous figures. Schliessmann seems to identify with Nietzsche’s comment that Chopin respected the prevailing “harmonic and melodic conventions” while at the same time “like the freest and most graceful spirit [is] playing and dancing in these fetters….” When I think of the usual adjectives applied to Chopin’s music, such as poetic, Romantic, rhapsodic, and noble, the one that rises above the rest is liberating.

Intelligent and accomplished as he is, Schliessmann is well placed to speak about how liberated Chopin performance should be. These are highly distinctive readings, and despite his frequent return in the program notes to structure and balance, the pianist is an exciting performer; his distinctive ideas are carried through at the keyboard with almost Golden Age boldness. The comparison isn’t accidental. In his studies Schliessmann counts master classes with Shura Cherkassky, and he tells us that he’s most comfortable playing pianos with rich bass from the 1920s and 1930s. For these recordings, made in a Berlin studio over a span from 2009 to 2015, Schliessmann brought in his personal Steinway Model D-274; it has been recorded in rich, lifelike sound that has no flaws as heard in regular two-channel stereo. In his enthusiastic review of a 2015 Bach album by Schliessmann (Fanfare 38:4) Jerry Dubins praised the “SACD recording that projects the piano right into your listening space with a three-dimensional effect.” I imagine that much the same is true here.

Born in northwest Bavaria and trained in Frankfurt, Schliessmann is also an organist of such abilities that he had memorized Bach’s complete organ works by age 21. One senses in his strongly voiced Chopin playing, which at times reminded me of Claudio Arrau, that the sonority of the organ isn’t far away; in addition, there’s an organist’s technique in the way equal weight is given to the tone of each note. He is also gifted with an instinctive sense of Romantic phrasing, which allows him to be spontaneously expressive without veering into idiosyncrasy.
Personally, I find the Golden Age side of Schliessmann’s playing very appealing. He has little interest in gossamer filigree or a salon style of making Chopin elegant and miniaturized. Therefore, his choice of bold works like the Scherzos and Ballades takes advantage of his strengths. I’d advise turning to these pieces first to appreciate the combination of power and naturalness that characterizes these three discs. This isn’t to imply a lack of lyrical warmth—Schliessmann adapts beautifully to the flowing gentleness of the Berceuse and the beginning of the Barcarolle while remaining true to his view that Chopin performance is always about concentration and a tensile line. In the Preludes he is so sharply focused that you never feel a single chord falters, much less the forward-moving line.

Overall, if you favor strong-minded Chopin, as I definitely do, this set will bring considerable satisfaction, both musical and emotional, along with an intriguing read of the pianist’s sharp ideas about many aspects of Chopin’s introverted yet passionate personality. It’s beguiling to ponder Nietzsche’s hyperbole when he said, “I myself am still Polish enough to give up the rest of music for Chopin.”
(Huntley Dent)

The Chronicle, UK - February 6, 2016
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Schliessman's performance is so good that we've been easily able to listen to one or two of the CDs without tiring, thanks to Schliessmann's delicate changes in mood and tempo. Excellent, played and recorded to the highest standard.
(Jeremy Condliffe)

The Epoch Times, UK - February 4, 2016
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It's pleasing to see the oft omitted, but fascinating Op. 45 included. The conscious choice Schliessman takes, to tone down the romanticism of the performance and highlight the Classical genre Chopin was so influenced by, makes for an interesting listen. For many Chopin is a Romantic composer, yet suddenly the influence of Schubert and Beethoven shine clearly through. Most of all you can hear the legacy of Bach both in the forms and in the constant fugue-style movement of much of the music. No one can deny both the beauty and the well-placed interpretation of the performance, and as a clever “biography in music” of a great composer there's little to fault.
(Mary Keene)

CD Classico - recensioni e interviste dal mondo del disco, Italy - February 3, 2016
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Schliessmann is keen to favour a “Classical” line, aided by his majestic Steinway, to demonstrate not only the revolutionary nature of Chopin's music, but also the way in which his compositional technique evolved over time. Generally speaking, he has achieved both this and the other, undoubtedly more ambitious, goal that he set himself – that of considering the Chopin sound in isolation from the cliché long associated with it, namely that his pianism, his status as a composer and his artistry must be inextricably linked to his permanent ill health and instinctive reclusiveness.
(Andrea Bedetti)

Classical CD Choice, UK - January 22, 2016
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Displays much of the sensitivity of earlier Chopin specialists such as Ashkenazy, captured here in a surround sound recording that registers every nuance of the piano. German pianist Burkard Schliessmann's triple SACD set with state of the art sound and luxury packaging chronicles the works of Chopin in order, showing the composer's development and is thus informative for scholars as well as being an impressive recital.
(Barry Forshaw)

Der Neue Merker, Austria - December 5, 2015
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Burkard Schliessmann's fascinating approach sees the homage and proximity to Bach as constructive in, for example, the Preludes. Schliessmann prefers a clear structure and line, representing controlled emotions. The result is not only convincing, but overwhelming in many aspects. This is Chopin to re-discover and re-listen to. One cannot describe how Schliessmann plays all this, one needs to listen to it. The 5-channel recording will be appreciated by the audiophile.
(Dr. Ingobert Waltenberger)

SWR2, Treffpunkt Klassik - June 25, 2015
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Schliessmann is extremely well informed as a musician. He knows not only the aesthetic maxims of the Baroque but also the performing traditions of the 19th century, a century which for its part had to rediscover Bach for itself. The music does not simply purr along but flows over unusual cascades... A different breath blows through the music from section to section, resulting in unusual changes of perspective.
(Dr. Reinhard Ermen)

Fanfare-Magazin, USA  -
Volume 38, No. 4—March / April 2015

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It should be obvious from our interview above that for all his bredth and depth of knowledge in the disciplines of music, art, literature, and philosophy in general, and his breadth and depth of learning and scholarly insight into the music of Bach in particular, Burkard Schliessmann is, at heart, an unapologetic Romantic, a state of being that finds expression in his playing of these works. This is not to say that you will hear exaggerated cadential ritards, idiosyncratic tempo adjustments, rhythmic unsteadiness, or phrasing irregularities. Schliessmann is too knowledgeable and respectful of Bach to allow any corrupting influences to taint his readings of the scores.

Where his “Romantic” approach comes in, if you wish to call it that, is in his stated belief that once you’ve made the jump to play Bach on the piano, you have to do so with full committment, to play not in the style you would on harpsichord, but to take advantage of all the possibilities offered by the concert grand. Interestingly, Schliessmann reflects my own attitude in this matter, for on more than one occasion I’ve said in reviews that the most successful performers of Bach on piano—such as Angela Hewitt, András Schiff, Murray Perahia, and Craig Sheppard—do not attempt to simulate or imitate a harpsichord sound; they embrace the instrument at their disposal for what it is and what it can do.
Listen, for example to Schliessmann’s playful offsetting of the voices in the Rondeaux movement from the C-Minor Partita, taking advantage of the piano’s ability to produce chiaroscuro effects of lighting certain notes and shading others. This movement and the following Capriccio with which the Partita ends are both some of Bach’s most wiggly, giggly music, and Schliessman’s performance of them will make you chortle.
The same may be said of his first movement of the Italian Concerto. Just listen to the twist he gives Bach’s rhythmic variant in bars 37–38 of the straight 16ths that precede it in bars 35–36. It just tickles me every time I hear it. We tend to have this image of a serious and severe Bach scowling under that white wig, but anyone who could write music like this had to have a keen sense of humor and an appreciation for the ribald joke. This is something Schliessmann understands, and it comes through in his wonderfully perceptive playing.
But not all is fun or funny in these works. There’s the beautifully lamenting second movement of the Italian Concerto, an aria in all but name, and the plaintive A-Minor fugue, to both of which Schliessman brings real depth of feeling. And then, of course, there’s the great Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, a work which stands alone in Bach’s output, but which clearly has precedent in the so-called stylus phantasticus in the works of Frescobaldi and other earlier 17th-century keyboardists.
This is the one piece I personally prefer to hear on harpsichord. This not to diminish Schliessmann’s performance of it in any way—it’s as illuminating as everything else he does—but there’s something about the harpsichord’s jangling sounds and clomping effect of its jacks falling back from the strings—effects totally eliminated by the piano’s silent mechanism—that adds to the atmospherics and eccentricities of the thing.
Be that as it may, Schliessmann’s Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue is as audacious and bodacious as any on piano I know. A fantastic Bach recital all around, and in an SACD recording that projects the piano right into your listening space with a three-dimensional effect that spreads the keyboard in front of you from left to right and the full length of Schliessman’s Steinway concert grand from front to back. This earns the strongest of recommendations.
(Jerry Dubins)

American Record Guide - Volume 78,  No. 2—March / April 2015
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Schliessmann's new release collects a number of works often recorded by pianists (the program includes the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue) along with the Fantasia and Fugue in A minor (S 904) and an interesting three-movement complex made from the C-minor Fantasy and Fugue (S 906) and the Adagio in G (S 968). His tone is lovely and singing; his phrasing imaginative and probing (even in such an absolutely familiar work as the opening section of the Partita's first movement). (...)  In the fast movements of the Italian Concerto and the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue he has no rivals.
(Rob Haskins)

Classics Today -  April 2,  2015
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Burkard Schliessmann opens this Bach release with a performance of the C minor Partita that far surpasses his earlier recording; he brings attractive lightness and clarity to the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue . Every disc I've encountered by Schliessmann is impeccably engineered and well packaged, and this one is no exception.
(Jed Distler)

Audio Video Club of Atlanta - Phil's Classical Reviews, May 2015
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German pianist Burkard Schliessmann is a many-sided individual. The native of Aschaffenburg, Bavaria is highly intuitive in his approach to the music he plays. A graduate of the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts, he is also a keen student of philosophy and photography. Further, he is a professional scuba diver and is an ambassador for the Protecting of Our Ocean Planet program of Project AWARE. He is said to experience the phenomenon of Synesthesia, allowing him to incorporate the colors of the underwater world into his musical interpretations.

„Synesthesia“? It could be. Certainly, occasional exposure to  „rapture of the deep,“ which produces a feeling of tranquility and mastery of the environment, can’t hurt where the music of J.S. Bach is concerned. (Scuba divers, please, I’m just kidding!) Bach united the formal, expressive and spiritual elements of keyboard music as no one had done before his time (or maybe since, though we mustn’t forget Chopin!) A spontaneous artist, Schliessmann always invites a few friends to his recording sessions to provide an audience with whom he can communicate. „Giving back“ to his audience is something he finds very stimulating. „I don’t want to be conceited,“ he has repeatedly said, „but it’s a fact that piano and player have to blend into one.“

All of these things inform Schliessmann’s Bach interpretations, as heard on the present program.

His Partita No. 2 in C minor is as florid and poetic as it is colorful. (...) This particular partita is the most popular of the set of six with performers and audiences alike, thanks to its attractive mix of light and learned elements. It begins with a Sinfonia marked by a depth of expression, which is tempered by a soothing theme in the second section. Deftly applied counterpoint and rhythmic subtlety help create a lighter mood in the third. A rather more serious than customary Allemande and a graceful Courante are followed by a slow Sarabande, solemn but with a balm of soothing consolation. In place of the expected Menuetto and Gigue, Bach substitutes a spirited Rondeau and a playful Capriccio. Both have tricky rhythms that are challenging for the performer. Schliessmann surmounts all difficulties with zestful virtuosity.

The Italian Concerto was Bach’s nod to Italy and the ritornello style of Vivaldi. It is in three movements, the lively outer ones framing the Andante, a meltingly florid arioso-like movement whose concurrent mood of pathos and florid embellishments make a definite impression on the listener. Schliessmann handles the textures of this work, in which Bach imitates the roles of different groups of instruments, to perfection. (This effect, it should be noted, is easier to execute on the two-manual harpsichord that Bach had in mind than on a modern piano such as Schliessmann’s Steinway D, a fact that has not deterred pianists from being utterly fascinated with the Italian Concerto.)

Two Fantasias and Fugues, in A minor, BWV 904 and C minor, BWV 906, follow next in the program. Both are given performances here that manifest their improvisatory nature. The latter features an Adagio originally written for violin and harpsichord and skillfully interpolated by Bach to add to the expressive beauty of the piece and whet the listener’s interest by delaying the expected fugal resolution.

In the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, Schliessmann relishes the abundant chromaticism resulting from Bach’s demand for wildly flowing arpeggiations and recitative-like passagework in the first part, followed by the relatively lean counterpoint of the fugue for a contrast. The fugue in particular requires this performer’s strong, supple fingers to articulate it as cleanly as he does here. Schliessmann injects a healthy amount of exuberance into the music, which makes this ever-popular work ideal for closing the program.
(Dr. Phil Muse)

Frankfurter Neue Presse - February 10, 2015, «Der CD-Tipp» , "Himmlische Bach-Höhen"
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Als Hobbytaucher erforscht er Unterwasserparadiese, als Organist erklimmt er himmlische Klanghöhen, der Konzertflügel aber ist seine eigentliche Domäne. Hier eröffnet Burkard Schliessmann künstlerische Ausdruckswelten, so auch auf seiner neuen Bach-CD "Keyboard Works". Seine Interpretationen sind klar strukturiert, intellektuell durchdrungen, aber keineswegs akademisch trocken. Mit Verve und großem Atem nimmt Schliessmann kontrapunktische Meisterwerke wie Fantasie, Adagio und Fuge in c-Moll und die Chromatische Fantasie mit Fuge in d-Moll. Wie hingetupft, melodisch und graziös entfaltet er die Partita in c-Moll, und das Italienische Konzert sprüht vor Spielcharme.
(Michael Dellith - md)

Classical CD Review ( - January 2015
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Young German pianist Burkard Schliessmann obviously is a major figure on the pianistic scene. His recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations issued in 2008 won a prestigious critics' award, and several other prizes as well. His limited list of recordings includes videos of Chopin and Godowsky. On this fine new Schliessmann recording he offers a selection of Bach favorites playing with conviction and tonal beauty. His own personal Seinway Piano has been captured with a rich acoustic. A quality issue; surely many more will follow from this sterling young artist.
(Robert Benson)

Main-Netz - November 20, 2014
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Der Perlentaucher
Klavierkonzert: Burkard Schliessmann spannt im Ridinger-Saal den Bogen von Bach über Weber bis zu Chopin

»Chopin ist ein ganzes Leben«, hat Burkard Schliessmann einmal in einem Interview gesagt. Dieses »Leben« mit all seinen Höhen und Tiefen, mit all seinen Emotionen lotete der Pianist am Dienstagabend bei seinem Konzert im Ridinger-Saal von Schloss Johannisburg aus.

Nicht zufällig stellte der gebürtige Aschaffenburger, der sowohl in Kahl als auch in den USA lebt, die Werke seines Lieblingskomponisten an den Schluss des Klavierabends.
Sind doch insbesondere Chopin-Interpretationen immer wieder ein Höhepunkt seiner Konzerte. Einem Perlentaucher gleich dringt Schliessmann in die Tiefe der Kompositionen ein, bricht deren Schale auf und präsentiert das kostbare Innere.
Wie eine Perle erstrahlt das Werk in seiner ganzen Schönheit, als gäbe es keinen Zweifel an der Richtigkeit eben dieser Interpretation. Dabei ist das, was den Pianisten und Künstler Burkard Schliessmann ausmacht, nicht zuvorderst seine Virtuosität oder seine spielerische Raffinesse. Die stellt er am Dienstagabend bei Carl Maria von Weber quasi mal so nebenbei unter Beweis. Es ist vielmehr die Art, wie er die Werke liest, wie er den ihnen inne wohnenden Duktus erfasst. Klar arbeitet der akkreditierte Künstler von Steinway & Sons die Charakterzüge eines jedes Komponisten, eines jeden Werks heraus und hat auch keine Schwierigkeiten den Bogen von Bach über Weber bis zu Franck und schließlich Chopin zu spannen.

Geradlinig, fast schlicht
Geradlinig, fast schlicht spielt er Bach, ohne seine Klangfülle und Lyrik zu vernachlässigen, und lässt mit Carl Maria von Weber, dem entscheidenden Bindeglied zwischen Klassik und Romantik, das Tänzerisch-beschwingte im Kontrast dazu in den Vordergrund treten.
Spätestens bei dem Spätromantiker César Franck, dessen kontrapunktische Erinnerungen an Bach Schliessmann einfühlsam betont, möchte man unweigerlich die Augen schließen, um nur noch die Musik zu spüren. Schliessmanns Interpretationen sind schlank und geradlinig, fast schlicht und in ihrer Schlichtheit so faszinierend, dass man sich ihnen nicht entziehen kann. Wie betäubt ist das Publikum von diesem Tauchgang in die Tiefen der Musik, nachdem der letzte Ton des letzten Prélude verklungen ist, so dass das Applaudieren fast schwer fällt.
(Nina Beckmann-Höhenberger)

Main-Netz- February 25, 2013
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Der wahre Romantiker

Das Italienische Konzert ist eines von Johann Sebastian Bachs bekanntesten und beliebtesten Werken. Unzählige Male ist es interpretiert und gespielt worden. Und doch hatte man am Samstagabend im Ridinger-Saal das Gefühl, dieses Konzert zum ersten Mal zu hören. So neu und anders spielte es der Pianist Burkard Schliessmann.

Es braucht ein bisschen Zeit, bis man sich in Schliessmanns Interpretation dieses Werks eingehört hat, da er sehr stark die kontrapunktische Handschrift Bachs herausarbeitet. Hier ist man sonst eine stärkere Betonung der italienischen Stilelemente gewohnt. Doch die anfängliche Irritation weicht schnell und macht Platz für ein fasziniertes Gefesseltsein. Denn obwohl Schliessmann diesen Bach schlank, ja fast reduziert spielt, nimmt er ihm nichts von seiner Festlichkeit und Klangfülle. Selbst die lyrischen Einsätze kostet er aus.

Ansonsten geht Schliessmann fast streng vor, doch gerade dem Andante tut die strenge Rhythmik gut, die die verschiedenen Klangfarben optimal zur Geltung bringt. Den temporeichen und technisch anspruchsvollen dritten Satz spielt Schliessmann trotz rasanter Läufe fein artikuliert und klar.

Auch bei Robert Schumanns Kreisleriana op. 16 beschert Schliessmann seinem Publikum im ausverkauften Ridinger-Saal ein neues Hörerlebnis, indem er die scharfen Gegensätze der einzelnen Stücke entschärft und deren melodische Verwandtschaft in den Vordergrund stellt. Damit schafft er etwas, was vielen anderen Pianisten nicht gelingt: Die sonst oft in ihre Einzelteile zerfallende Komposition, die als ein Schlüsselwerk der romantischen Klavierliteratur gilt, erscheint aus einem Guss, in sich stimmig.

Emotionale Tiefe
Ein besonderer Genuss erwartete das Publikum nach der Pause mit mehreren Werken Frédéric Chopins, der der erklärte Lieblingskomponist Schliessmanns ist. Kein Wunder, gelingt es ihm doch immer wieder, Chopins Komplexität und emotionale Tiefe wunderbar herauszuarbeiten. So verzichtet Schliessmann auch am Samstag auf überzeichnete Gesten oder bedeutungsschwangere Akkordkaskaden. Sein Chopin ist rhythmisch klar, ausbalanciert und trotzdem nuancenreich und vielschichtig.

Ob das Allegretto aus der Barcarolle op. 60, in dem er Kraft und Zartheit schnörkellos zur Geltung bringt, das Allegro Maestro aus der Polonaise-Fantaisie op. 61, deren geheimnisvolles und vielschichtiges Gusto in den Vordergrund tritt, oder das Andante con moto aus der Ballade Nr. 4 in f-Moll, mit deren düsteren und spannungsgeladenen Harmonien er einen fulminanten Schlusspunkt setzt - alles erscheint so, wie Schliessmann es spielt, klar und authentisch, als gäbe es keinen Zweifel an dieser Lesart, als sei sie die einzig mögliche Wahrheit.

Generell erscheinen andere Interpretationen im Vergleich zu Schliessmanns Lesarten schwammig und überladen. Bei ihm herrscht absolute Klarheit. Er gibt den Kompositionen eine Struktur, weil er sich im Innersten mit ihnen auseinander setzt. Das Ergebnis ist ein unprätentiöses, akkurates Spiel, das insbesondere romantischen Kompositionen zu Gute kommt. So gesehen ist er ein wahrer Romantiker.
(Nina Beckmann-Höhenberger)

Frankfurter Neue Presse - February 9, 2013
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Mit Schmelz und Inbrunst

... In Schumanns Kreisleriana brachte Schliessmann besonders die langsamen Abschnitte mit Schmelz und Inbrunst zur Wirkung.

Auch im zweiten Teil des Konzerts zeigte Schliessmann Format und Stilsicherheit. Mit Stücken wie Chopins Polonaise-Fantaisie oder dem nuancenreichen Scherzo E-Dur demonstrierte der Interpret Konzentration und virtuosen Glanz. Die umfangreiche und vielseitige f-moll Ballade beschloss einen angenehmen Konzertabend.
(Matthias Gerhart)

Main-Netz - June 19, 2012
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Wie aus einem Traum erwacht

... Egal, ob Bach oder Schumann - Schliessmanns Spiel kann man sich nicht entziehen, es fesselt vom ersten bis zum letzten Ton. Vielleicht liegt es daran, dass seine Interpretationen so klar erscheinen, als seien sie die einzig mögliche Lesart, als seien sie die der Komposition inne wohnende Wahrheit schlechthin. Kein Wunder, dass die Spannung im Saal fast mit Händen zu greifen schien. Erst recht, als Schliessmann sich seinem Lieblingskomponisten Chopin zuwandte. Schliessmann spielte Chopin nicht, er ließ ihn erzählen. Gemeinsam mit ihm tauchten die Zuhörer in die Tiefen des Werks ab und erfassten es in seiner Gänze, als hörten sie es zum ersten Mal. Burkard Schliessmann hat einmal in einem Interview gesagt, dass er sich immer dann sicher sei, die Wahrheit einer Komposition erfasst zu haben, wenn sich ein »Gänsehaut-Gefühl« einstelle. Dies ist ihm gelungen.
(Nina Beckmann-Höhenberger)

American Record Guide - July / August 2011
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Burkard Schliessmann’s 2-disc Chopin recital (of late works, with Schumann’s Kreisleriana) on MSR-Classics (MS 1361) is done with strong conviction, sheds new light on the music, and leaves the listener stunned.
(Donald Vroon)

FANFARE Magazin - Volume 34, No. 3—January / February 2011
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As is evident if you’ve heard his earlier recordings—or if you’ve read his interviews with James Reel (31:3) or with me (27:4 and 33:5, the latter reprinted in the booklet to this new release)—Burkard Schliessmann is a fiercely intellectual pianist. He’s intellectual in two senses. First, he approaches this music with a tremendous store of background knowledge—knowledge about the composers and their works, about their early receptions, about their critical writings, about their literary inspirations, and about the cultural milieu in which they found themselves. Second, he performs the music with a rigorous sense of the ways its details contribute to its form, both in terms of its overall architecture and in terms of its vertical structure. Not that he sounds anything like Pollini, much less Rosen (to mention just two other pianists often tagged as intellectuals): his playing is far lusher and less severe than Pollini’s (listen to the gorgeous shifts in color in the Barcarolle), far more flexible than Rosen’s. Still, if you’re looking for playing with splashy virtuosity, heightened emotionality, and an extroverted interpretive style, you won’t find it here.

Thus, for instance, his fairly dark Kreisleriana is exploratory rather than explosive. The performance is notable for its keen appreciation of Schumann’s off-kilter rhythms, its sensitivity to his more adventurous pre-expressionistic harmonies, and, most of all, its poignance (try the opening of the second movement). But while it’s not quite a somber reading, it’s surely a sober one—tempos are on the deliberate side; the music’s wit is tempered (even more, I think, than in his earlier recording on Bayer, 27:4); colors tend to be rich; the music’s agitation is muted; and despite the thrust of the Seventh movement, its drama is often held in check. Much the same can be said about his lustrous Chopin which, despite the sheer weight of the climaxes (the Polonaise-Fantaisie is especially crushing), is most memorable for its introspection: the conversational intimacy of much of the Fantasy, the careful exploration of the Third Ballade’s inner lines, the hypnotic pull of the Berceuse. In sum, these performances—issued to celebrate the Chopin and Schumann anniversaries—do not set out to wow you or to inflame your emotions. As a consequence, they will probably not serve as a good introduction for people who are just starting to know this music. But anyone who loves this music well will find Schliessmann’s subtle readings a welcome addition to their collections.

The Bach is included as an homage to a composer whom Chopin and Schumann both admired. Reel praised the “almost bouncy non-legato touch” of Schliessmann’s Goldberg Variations (31:3), and the same quality can be found here, in a performance with a much sharper profile than we get in his readings of its 19th-century discmates. The rhythmic spring of the secondary lines (if any lines in Bach can be called secondary) is especially fetching. As Reel says, Schliessmann is not an especially “pianistic” Bachian—but, without exaggerating, he does take advantage of the instrument’s range of articulation and its ability to provide finely graded dynamics. And while he’s not an especially romantic Bachian, either, he’s certainly willing to interject a fair amount of rhythmic teasing.

The recordings were made with two different Steinways in two different halls, chosen according to the repertoire; in all cases, the engineering is superlative, especially in 5.1 surround, capturing the full sonority of the instrument and offering a compelling sense of space. (...) An imposing release.
(Peter J. Rabinowitz)

Turok's Choice - January 2011
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Schliessmann is wonderful at voicings (including melodies at the top)... He also phrases well... he emphasizes the fantasy elements in the Polonaise-Fantasie effectively... Excellent sound.
(Paul Turok)

American Record Guide - November / December 2011
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" Critics' Choice 2010 "

Called 2010 Chopin-Schumann Anniversary Edition this beautifully recorded SACD set is the second release by Schliessmann I have had the fortune to review. His Goldberg Variations (Bayer 100326, Mar/Apr 2008) was one of my Critics Choices for the year. Given my often reinforced memory of his superb Bach pianism, this immediately caught my attention, and I listened to this first among this issue’s review items. It is his first release on an American label, and it is beautifully packaged, with exemplary notes by Schliessmann (in German). There is an essay-interview with Schliessmann on this music in English by Peter Rabinowitz. I would have preferred a good English translation of Schliessmann’s actual complete essay, since it elaborates on the pianist’s feelings for each of the selections.

Rarely does any pianist communicate the essence of Chopin with such an individual conviction as I hear in these stunning performances. These late works are probably some of the greatest ever composed for the piano. To perform them well requires both exceptional pianistic skills and a remarkable intellect. Schliessmann arrives at his own unique interpretations, with reverence for the past (Cortot, Michelangeli, Rubinstein, and Horszowski especially). While each phrase is impeccably shaped, there is an overall thrust to each work that holds everything together. He uses rubato sparingly, and while he embraces the virtuosity in the music, it never overrides other musical content. After a half century of listening to a number of these works, I must say that Schliessmann shed new light on most of them. His is rarefied Chopin and needs to be heard by all music lovers.

The second disc combines a Bach Partita 2 that is on the same level as his Goldberg Variations with a thrilling performance of Schumann’s Kreisleriana. Only Horowitz seems as able to capture the impulsive, rather chaotic character of this work. Where Schliessmann gave Chopin a firm classical grounding, he shifts gears easily to convey the quirky, confused nature of late Schumann, which is truly another world of romantic piano music.

The Bach, after a dramatic French Overture opening, proceeds through the stylized dances with flair, personality and sentiment. The clarity of articulation, phrasing choices, and subtle dynamic shadings make a compelling argument that Bach can be played on the piano. The baroque master himself would undoubtedly fully embrace Schliessmann’s performance. I feel that way about the whole release.
(James Harrington)

Audiophile Audition - October 2010
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Kudos to MSR for issuing their very first multichannel SACD; if the quality of future releases is as good as this one, then we are in good hands indeed, as they have captured Schliessmann’s personal Steinway to great effect, with an enveloping warm ambiance that presents the piano to great effect. There is nothing not enjoyable about hearing this instrument on this recording, and audiophiles will take note. This recording is devoted to the Chopin-Schumann bicentennial of their births...

This is invigorating and nicely shaped Bach (Partita II), full of energy and commitment played at the highest technical level in great sound; what more could you want? ... a very out of the ordinary recital, stunningly recorded by a pianist that I think will be very interesting to follow in future as his ideas continue to develop.
(Stefen Ritter)

Audio Video Club of Atlanta - Phil's Classical Reviews, October 2010
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In this sumptuously recorded and sumptuously packaged 2-SACD digipak German-American pianist Burkard Schliessmann pays eloquent tribute to the memory of Frederic Chopin and Robert Schumann, both of whom we celebrate this year in the 200th anniversary of their birth. Several conclusions about this artist of the keyboard immediately jump out at this reviewer. First, he likes a big, full rich sound utilizing all the resources of his instrument (without having to be told, we might easily have guessed that Schliessmann has been recognized as a Steinway Artist).

The other thing is that he is one who restlessly probes to get to the heart of the music and bring it out in all its expressive power and beauty – and damned be those notes that fall bleeding by the side. In that respect, he is like one of his teachers, the ever-astonishing Shura Cherkassky. We see this trait most clearly in his account of J S Bach’s Partita No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 826 on SACD 2. He takes generally brisk tempi throughout the six-movement suite, and is particularly adept at voicing and sustaining the polyphonic strands in Bach’s writing. His Sarabande is remarkably moody.

Schliessmann is essentially a romantic, and as such he is the last sort of pianist you would expect to just play the notes as written, without comment. There is a strong personality behind his performances, one that always has a decided opinion about the music. His Chopin pieces on SACD 1 are boldly characterized and vividly expressed, not simply colorized. They include poetically rich and compelling accounts of such Chopin masterworks as Ballades No. 3 in A-flat Major and 4 in F Minor, the widely ranging Fantasy in F minor, op. 49, the almost spectrally haunting Waltz in C-sharp Minor, the Polonaise-Fantaisie in A-flat Major, with its bewildering variety of texture and mood and its persuasive power of suggesting more than it actually says, and a really stunning Barcarolle in F-sharp Major that captures the enchantment of the night.

But Schliessman is at his very best in Schumann’s Kreisleriana, a work whose greatness of imagination I had never properly appreciated until I heard this recording. There are no fewer than 24 marked sections in the 8 movements, requiring the executant to constantly adjust in terms of changes in phrasing, tempo, expression and emphasis, from a probing quest for beauty and inner calm in Movements 2,4, 6 to the boldest, most urgent expression of passion in 1, 3, 5, and 7, to say nothing of violent contrasts within the same movement. Indeed, a principle of instability is at work here, and Schliessmann recognizes that fact very clearly. And he knows well that when Schumann marks Noch Schneller (still faster) in a movement marked Sehr Rasch (very fast), what he really means is "galloping". In many of these moments we get the impression of shadows flitting around a dimly lit room; so much so that Schumann might have done well to have named this 1838 work Nachtstücke (Night Pieces) instead of reserving the title for what to my mind was a less successful work of the following year.

By the way, you haven’t heard the last of this pianist. 2011 marks the 200th anniversary of Franz List, another decided favorite of Burkard Schliessmann, and he isn’t likely to let the occasion pass without comment!
(Dr. Phil Muse)

SWR 2, <<Treffpunkt Klassik>> - September 14, 2010
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In SWR2 Treffpunkt Klassik gibt es jetzt ein instrumentales Zwischenspiel. Der deutsch-amerikanische Pianist Burkard Schliessmann hat eine große Affinität zum alten Virtuosentum, er versucht die große Gelassenheit, die uns inzwischen abhanden gekommen ist, wieder einzuholen und mit dem Textverständnis von heute zu vereinen. Sein Chopin-Spiel klingt so betrachtet nachdenklich, bedächtig und gelegentlich auch ein wenig eckig. Er baut große Crescendo-Bögen, manche Passagen sind von einer atemberaubenden Immaterialität. Hören Sie die Ballade Nr. 3 in As-Dur und die Polonaise-Fantasie op. 61 in der gleichen Tonart.
(Dr. Reinhard Ermen)

Frankfurter Neue Presse - July 20, 2010
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Chopins Seelenschluchten

Struktur und Poesie, Intellektualität und Emotionalität, diese vermeintlichen Gegensätze vereint der Pianist Burkard Schliessmann in seinen Interpretationen immer wieder auf faszinierende Weise. So auch auf seiner neuen Doppel-CD «Anniversary Edition 2010» mit den Jubilaren Chopin und Schumann. Auf zwei verschiedenen Steinway-Flügeln mit entsprechender Klangcharakteristik taucht Schliessmann in die Seelenschluchten der Chopinschen Balladen hinab, bändigt aber auch die taumelnde Fantastik in Schumanns «Kreisleriana».

Wie ein Ruhe-Anker wirkt dagegen Bachs Partita Nr. 2, klanggesättigt gespielt, mit Drive und doch intim.
(Michael Dellith)

Frankfurter Neue Presse - April 19, 2010
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Dezent und virtuos

Schumann und Chopin – die beiden Jubiläen von je 200 Jahren boten Schliessmann Anlass, Schumanns großformatige «Kreisleriana» sowie vier Stücke Chopins gegenüber zu stellen. Das Konzert im Mozartsaal (...) eröffnete er allerdings mit einem Werk von Johann Sebastian Bach, der beiden Romantikern ja große Leitfigur war. In der Partita c-Moll (BWV 826) ließ er schöne Anschlagstechnik erkennen. Dezente Virtuosität zeichnete die lebhaften Abschnitte aus. Schliessmann stellte die verschiedenen klanglichen Nuancen der «Kreisleriana» wirkungsvoll heraus, wobei ihm die langsamen Abschnitte am besten gelangen. Die vier Stücke von Chopin – darunter seine Polonaise-Fantasie und die Ballade f-Moll (op.52) - bildeten eine wirkungsvolle Ergänzung und sicherten dem Interpreten reichlichen Beifall.
(Matthias Gerhart)

WDR-Cologne, 'TonArt' - September 2, 2008
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Was ist diese Musik? Ist sie Gottesdienst? Eine Beschwörung, eine Meditation über eine Ordnung von Gott, Mensch und Welt? Ist sie eine permutatorische Rechenaufgabe? Ein arithmetisches Exerzitium der Seele?

Ernst und feierlich schaut der Pianist Burkard Schliessmann in die Kamera, der Arm ruht mit ausgestrecktem kleinem Finger auf der Tastatur seines Steinway-Flügels – so ist Schliessmann auf dem Cover seiner neuen CD, der Einspielung der Goldbergvariationen von Bach, zu sehen. Und so konzentriert, wie er sich dem Betrachter visuell präsentiert, erklingt auch eins der bedeutendsten Klavierwerke der Musikgeschichte in feiner, ziselierter, grundsolider Interpretation.

... Er hat sich schon früh mit Bach auseinandergesetzt. Bereits mit 21 Jahren spielte Schliessmann das gesamte Orgelwerk. Seine CD- und DVD-Produktionen sind besonders in den USA bekannt und bewundert. Er hat einige der Achttausender der Klavierliteratur eingespielt, Bach, Chopin, Liszt, Skrabin, Godowsky, auch in Fernsehproduktionen des WDR.

Der Anekdote nach sollen Bachs Goldbergvariationen als „Gute-Nacht-Musik“ gedacht worden sein. Bach hat sie ursprünglich lapidar mit „Clavier-Übung“ betitelt. Sie zählen – hinsichtlich ihrer Struktur und ihrer bestechenden Klarheit - zu den anspruchsvollsten Werken für Klavier. Burkard Schliessmann gestaltet sie rein und durchsichtig, virtuos und souverän ohne virtuose Kapriolen, in einem durchdringend filigranem Ton.

Schliessmann spielt auf seinem eigenen Flügel, den er als Instrument für die Musik Bachs empfindet und darstellt. Sein Ziel ist die Erreichung einer „humanen Wirklichkeit“ der Musik. Ein großes Vorhaben angesichts der Abstraktheit der Struktur der Variationen. Jedoch gewinnt man tatsächlich beim Hören dieser CD den Eindruck, man sei Teil und Inhalt dieser Harmonien und verzwickten Kontrapunkte: Die Musik sei eine kommunizierende, menschliche Reinkarnation. Schliessmanns „Instinkt“ wird untermauert durch seinen zuweilen recht grundtönig klingenden Steinway, verbunden mit dem großen musikalischen Verständnis des Werkes und seiner Entstehungszeit, welches Schliessmann sich unüberhörbar angeeignet hat.

Was ist diese Musik: Ist sie Gottesdienst? Eine Meditation über eine Ordnung von Gott, Mensch, Welt? Eine permutatorische Rechenaufgabe? Ein arithmetisches Exerzitium der Seele? Oder all dies zusammen?
(Dr. Lothar Mattner)

STEINWAY Pianos Magazine 2008 - 2008
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People like to pigeon-hole pianists. There are, we are routinely told, the barnstormers – romantic pianists who throw the entire force of the heart and soul into their playing – and then there is the more analytical school – those who play by intellect, everything meticulously thought out and delicately weighted. By and large it’s piffle, of course; few pianists would admit to excluding head or heart in their playing and great interpretations are forged through a combination of the two, and more besides. But German-born Burkard Schliessmann rejects such divisions more than most. (...)
(James Inverne)

Fono Forum - August 2008
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Ein "Bach der Mitte" im positiven Sinn - nachdenklich schlicht, stets fein ausgearbeitet.
(Frank Siebert)

MusicWeb-International - July 08, 2008
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... Burkard Schliessmann’s 1999 recording of Schumann's Fantaisie in C-major (Bayer BR 100 293 CD) combines a judicious amount of flair with real passion, without ever losing the through line of the movement, possibly Schumann’s greatest extended structure. Schliessmann balances that structure with great skill, drawing attention in his own program notes to Schumann’s prominent use of “the Tristan chord” in the first movement, quite a few years before Wagner supposedly discovered it.

... de Larrocha and Schliessmann are (...) keeping their piano sound from turning hectic as the music exults, with Schliessmann pointing up the eccentric element more than de Larrocha ...

... Schliessmann unfolds at a similar tempo to de Larrocha, with sufficient singing, though he perhaps spends more effort tending to the interplay of counterpoint between the interwoven melody and accompaniment. ...
(Mark Sebastian Jordan)

MusicWeb-International - May 27, 2008
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" Recording of the Year 2008 "
" Recording of the Month "

German pianist Burkard Schliessmann charts new territory in the Goldbergs, characterizing musical phrases like conversations amongst warm, human characters. Far from the flair of young Gould, the serenity of old Gould, the severity of Tureck, or the drama of Perahia, this is the most humane Goldberg I’ve ever heard.

Someone once said that if Dublin were ever destroyed, it could be reconstructed from James Joyce’s Ulysses. I think that if the entire body of Western Civilization were suddenly snatched away from us, save one work of art, we could rebuild a good chunk of it, if that one remaining work were Bach’s Goldberg Variations. It transcends mere musical expression - though it is saturated with that - by incorporating philosophical, mathematical, architectural, rhetorical and even religious ideas in a density that is unmatched by any other work. The variable factor in rebuilding the western world from the Goldbergs would be: Which performance to use? The unperformed score itself is only a blueprint for a world awaiting creation.

The world according to Rosalyn Tureck’s Goldbergs would be monumental, built out of marble columns and wide-open spaces. Vladimir Feltsman’s would be a topsy-turvy house painted audacious colors, with the occasional door opening on the top floor into mid-air and some of the windows underground. Young Glenn Gould’s world would be nothing more than a piano in a warm, late-night room. Older Gould’s reconstructed world would be nothing but clouds, light and midnight sun. Murray Perahia’s world would be one of poise, grace and piety, an entire city of interconnected, elegant buildings.

As much as I love all those performances, I had never found myself forced to consider this: Where is the human element in all these worlds? But the recent Bayer recording by Burkard Schliessmann dares to put the question front and center, and in the process creates a distinctive profile, one that not everyone will like.

Great artists can polarize, and the intensely thoughtful Schliessmann has never shied away from pursuing deep and subtle shades of expression where others play to the gallery. The pianist ups the ante here by daring to bring his connotation-rich, philosophical style to a piece that is considered by some a sacred tome not open to experimentation. (...)

What strikes me throughout this recording is the sense that Schliessmann is always searching for what is conversational in this music. Where Gould and Tureck awe the listener, Schliessmann makes these thirty variations sound human and approachable. This is the recording for all those who have previously found the Goldberg Variations too abstract and unfriendly. Yet there are layers of things going on, too, which can satisfy the connoisseur hoping to find new discoveries.

While this is worlds away from being a period-style performance, Schliessmann nonetheless adapts some historically-informed practices, such as playing runs of continuous short-value notes unevenly, giving those parts a gentle swing. It’s something that isn’t done very often, certainly not by mid-twentieth century pianists like Gould and Tureck, who were trained to play notes as written, as opposed to the natural swing that used to be commonplace in classical music until theorists squeezed the life out of it. Listen, for instance, to Variation 1, where Schliessmann jettisons the usual stiff-collar approach and instead gives the passing figurations a gentle swing. At first hearing, it may even sound unintentionally uneven, but then one can always go listen for comparison to the deadly even scales and runs Schliessmann deploys in his Godowsky arrangements of Strauss waltzes or his Liszt transcriptions of Schubert songs on his DVD (Arthaus Musik 100 455).

Another example of how human Schliessmann makes this music sound is Variation 23, where Schliessmann finds wit and shape that others only hint at. Those who expect their baroque keyboard music to have the regularity of a sewing machine might not like the way Schliessmann shades the rhythms, but I love it. He makes every polyphonic voice independent, as if it weren’t one person playing all these notes, but rather a small orchestra of pianists, each one an individual. Schliessmann’s Goldbergs are populated with dozens, perhaps hundreds of such characters. Friends, enemies, teachers, laborers, family, lovers, they are all here, living life. No other Goldberg, for better or worse, is more full of personal, human touches than this one. Some would call it a romantic approach, but I’m not convinced that is true. I think that the true romantic approach is Perahia’s. For all Perahia’s lucid, Mozartian poise, he shapes the entire work with a dramatic, programmatic sense. Schliessmann instead lives inside each variation, more interested in each section’s inner life than in pushing the whole piece toward a climactic point. This thoughtful characterization naturally gives Variation 29 and Variation 30, the quodlibet, layers of richness that make them grand summations, even as they amble comfortably along.

Though Schliessmann is often identified with romantic piano music, he’s no romantic. He’s onto something new, an artistic “ism” that hasn’t been named yet. If score literalism can be taken at this point as a very twentieth-century phenomenon, it seems that a new artistic philosophy is emerging in the twenty-first. If the old school, whether it be Gustav Leonhardt’s Bach or Pierre Boulez’s Mahler, is based on the denotations of the score and historical documentation, the emerging new school is one of connotations, finding the connections no one ever noticed before, both within a piece of music, and outside it as well. Schliessmann’s Goldbergs teem with life because he plays not like someone who spends 12 hours a day practicing (which, for all I know, he may), but rather like someone who reads books, talks with friends, views art, travels to historic sites and, simply, lives. Schliessmann may be a musician, but more importantly, he’s a human being.

Like Schliessmann’s other Bayer recordings, this disc is given gorgeous, high-resolution sound. I had a little trouble getting my Sony SACD player to recognize the hybrid layers, but once it did, I found lively, three-dimensional sound in the multichannel layer. The regular CD layer is quite good in its own right, richer and warmer than any standard CD from more than ten years ago. Incidentally, the performance is spread over two discs, but it’s priced as one. Though it is in fact possible to fit more than 80 minutes on one disc, the amount of manufacturing defects skyrockets when that is done. Instead, Bayer wisely opted to split the work at its natural break, leaving two discs of around 40 minutes, which can be manufactured with virtually no defects. Since the piece naturally cleaves between Variation 15 and the “Ouverture,” as Bach designated Variation 16, it doesn’t bother me in the least. The accompanying booklet also contains sizeable essays by Schliessmann himself, who offers much food for thought as he talks about the theoretical and practical aspects of both playing and understanding the variations.

In summary, this is a Goldberg Variations for those who want to get inside the piece and live inside it, instead of admiring it from afar as it sits on a marble pedestal. Recommended warmly for those adventurous enough to enjoy hearing an old favourite transformed into something new.

(Mark Sebastian Jordan)

American Record Guide - May / Juni 2008
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" Critics' Choice 2008 "

"Listening to Burkard Schliessmann's Goldberg Variations is a little like eating tuna tartare for the first time after years of eating fish sticks. It's not that Schliessmann plays the piece better than anyone else. Glenn Gould's second recording on Sony (Mar/Apr 2004) and Murray Perahia's reading for the same label (Jan/Feb 2001) are both wonderful, too. But Schliessmann's performance is very, very different and, in a way, more exalted than either of his esteemed colleagues. First, he takes every repeat and often chooses more expansive tempos for the pieces. As a result, the dramatic arc of the Goldbergs has more definition and significance; I'm now convinced that it's absolutely essential to play this piece with all the repeats. Second, Schliessmann is a little freer with tempo than I'm used to. Maybe sometimes he's a little too free, for example when he rushes the downbeat after a trill in Variation 14; still, the phrasing and expression become more varied, more human, than in performances with a stricter beat. And finally the sound of the piano is gorgeous: it's not percussive at all; it's warm and inviting. (I imagine it sounds even better in an SACD player.)

Of many outstanding variations I could mention, I remember in particular the elegant, French-style gigue tempo he takes for Variation 7, the extremely vocal Variation 9, the fascinating subtlety of voicing in Variation 8, the uncomplicated joy in Variation 24, and the understated, con amore Variation 30 (the quodlibet). ... Schliessmann's overall conception and realization of Bach's last great keyboard work has so much distinction ..."
(Rob Haskins)

all music - March 2008
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"The much talked-about German pianist Burkard Schliessmann, after several recordings of Romantic literature, now weighs in with Bach‘s mighty Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, taken with all repeats and just deliberately enough that it requires two compact discs to contain the whole. Schliessmann in his Germanically abstruse yet pertinent booklet notes, quotes Glenn Gould several times and has seemingly set out to pick up with the variations where Gould left off. That's a tall order inasmuch as Gould’s Goldberg recordings, whether you like them or not, derive their value from their ability to transport the listener into Gould‘s personal universe — there is no Gould school, and for good reason. Schliessmann's interpretation certainly resembles Gould‘s in its externals: in the use of the pedals, in the heavy connectedness of the sharply articulated passagework, and in the radically pianistic conception of the work as a whole. He keeps closer to the 1955 Gould recording than to the later one with its tempo extremes, but he has some of the sense of titanic engagement with the work's architecture that the aging Gould had; the music seems to inexorably build over units stretching over several variations and several groups of variations. In any event, Schliessmann's performance is not in any way imitative of either of Gould‘s — although it's something of an inversion of the first one. Where Gould focuses on the melody (and hums along with it, which Schliessmann thankfully manages to avoid), it is the bass line that occupies Schliessmann's attention. He puts enough emphasis on the bass that in many variations it's the first thing that catches your attention — the melody line takes on the status of ornamentation. This, as both Gould and Schliessmann point out, accords with the basic conception of the work — Bach treats the bass line of the opening Aria as a ground, rather than making (to use an old word) divisions on the tune. Schliessmann conveys the sense of a tough sinew connecting the whole giant set, and leaves himself enough room for plenty of small and often delightful surprises in the right hand. (...) If Gould’s sparkling renditions had a certain remoteness, Schliessmann seems positively Olympian. And, as much as any pianist since Gould, he is quite simply adding things to the music that Bach could not have imagined. This is (...) an ambitious and really spectacular recording of a keyboard masterwork that demands to be heard and can back up its demands. The multichannel Super Audio sound from Germany's Bayer label does full justice to the remarkable level of registral detail in Schliessmann's recording."

(James Manheim)

American Record Guide - March / April 2008
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" Critics' Choice 2008 "

"... you come away from each variation (BACH: Goldberg- Variations) thinking "of course, that's the way it should be."

"... he displays the intellect and control of Gould without his eccentricities or vocal embellishments."

"... the sound of the SACD - recording of Schliessmann is as perfect as it gets these days."
(James Harrington)

Frankfurter Neue Presse - January 4, 2008
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Der CD-Tipp: Goldberg für 2008

„Musik, die weder Ende noch Anfang achtet, Musik ohne wirklichen Höhepunkt und ohne wirkliche Auflösung“ – so beschrieb der geniale Glenn Gould Johann Sebastian Bachs „Goldberg-Variationen“. Der in Deutschland und den USA lebende Pianist Burkard Schliessmann scheint diese Einschätzung Goulds über einen der gewichtigsten Meilensteine der Klavierliteratur zu teilen. Seine Einspielung des hochkomplexen Variationswerks auf einer Doppel-CD im Super-Audio-Verfahren jedenfalls öffnet den ganzen Kosmos des Bachschen Spätstils. Mit der perlenden Klarheit und der Flexibilität seines subtil-kultivierten Anschlags gelingt Schliessmann eine Gratwanderung zwischen fließender Leichtigkeit und Ausdruckstiefe. Wie er dieses Netzwerk aus melodischen Linien und harmonischen Wendungen über einem festen Bassfundament emotionell und intellektuell durchdringt, wie er die Energiequellen dieser Musik immer wieder anzuzapfen versteht, verdient große Bewunderung."
(Michael Dellith)

FANFARE Magazin - Volume 31, No. 3—January / February 2008
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"Most of Burkard Schliessman’s interpretation of the Goldberg Variations calls to mind Alexander Pope’s line “eternal sunshine of the spotless mind” — a reference not to ignorance (nor to the memory erasing at the center of the movie by that title), but to innocence. For the most part, Schliessmann presents this as music of optimism and joy, the exact opposite of much of Simone Dinnerstein’s recording, reviewed in the previous issue. Oh, Schliessmann does know when and how to get serious, as in the extended (though not distended) traversal of the 25th variation (discussed in the accompanying interview). Yet even here, the playing is not self-consciously weighty; he doesn’t try to make Bach sound like Beethoven.

Schliessmann sets a measured pace in the Aria, feeling his way through little hesitations that create the impression that he’s improvising the music as he plays. But his overall approach is much sunnier, thanks mainly to his almost bouncy non-legato touch. Consider the seventh variation, which is remarkably playful, even a bit rustic.


If you want something more in the tradition of Glenn Gould’s first recording, minus some of the peculiarities but plus the repeats, Schliessmann’s account is highly satisfactory."
(James Reel)

American Record Guide - September / October 2006
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"... Burkard Schliessmann with a great feel for the Brahms style and sound ..."
(Donald Vroon & Paul Althaus)

International Record Review IRR - September / October 2005
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... Those who opt for Schliessmann's Godowsky will also be treated to some strongly argued (if sometimes overly insistent) Schubert-Liszt transcriptions (Aufenthalt and Erlkönig are especially riveting in their stark and uncompromising rigour). In addition, as a bonus we're given a reissue of Schliessmann's Chopin anthology from Bayer: a DVD-A disc providing intellectually provocative performances of seven large-scale works, as well as a brief DVD-V of the Waltz, Op. 64 No. 2. Although the Chopin was originally issued before the Godowsky, it was actually recorded later and it shows many of the same interpretative characteristics at a fuller stage of development. There's nothing traditional here, nothing middle-of-the road. Instead, we get meticulous explorations of the music that aim to reveal its details of colour, texture and motivic shape, rather than to unleash the affective force of its special amalgam of elegance and fire.

... thoughtful exposure of the music's inner workings.


All in all, an intriguing (...) introduction to an unusual artist.
(Peter J. Rabinowitz)

FANFARE Magazin  - Volume 28, No. 4—Marchil / April 2005
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"...his tonal palette is impressively varied, and his sound carries seductively at all dynamic levels, fully present even at the quiet end of the spectrum (try the opening of Künstlerleben) and gloriously rich at even the most grandiose climaxes, which ring out authoritatively. Nor is his playing rigid — there’s plenty of rhythmic flexibility. (...) he brings out textural details in a way that underlines Godowsky’s ingenuity rather than his whimsy. (...) Lovers of these scores will find that Schliessmann’s attempts to bring these pieces outside the supervirtuoso tradition is illuminating."
(Peter J. Rabinowitz)

Fono Forum - January 2005
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"... Der Pianist Burkard Schliessmann leistet Erstaunliches und erobert das Virtuosenrepertoire mit dem festen Willen, ausgetretenen Pfaden eben nicht zu folgen. Schliessmann, der über staunenswerte manuelle Fähigkeiten verfügt und vielen Details agogisch geschickt Aufmerksamkeit gönnt, hat sich für den WDR mit Godowsky und Liszt vor die Kamera begeben, und zwar in der schmucken Stadthalle am Johannisberg in Wuppertal - von Claus Viller nicht vor Publikum gefilmt, sondern im leeren Raum, was einen eigenen Stimmungswert besitzt.

Man konzentriert sich voll und ganz auf den Pianisten. (...) Schliessmann spielt wirklich superb Leopold Godowskys Metamorphosen über Themen und Walzer von Johann Strauß: "Die Fledermaus", "Alt -Wien", "Wienerisch" und "Ein Künstlerleben" geraten zur packenden Demonstration seiner Kunst. Er gestaltet sehr differenziert Schubert-Lieder in den Bearbeitungen Franz Liszts. Sein Spiel ist von Klarheit gezeichnet (...). Man muß die Steigerungen im "Erlkönig" hören, um die pianistische Potenz des Künstlers zu begreifen.

Dass er international höchsten Anforderungen mehr als genügt, belegt Schliessmann in der Bonus-Audio-DVD. Da nimmt er Chopins Balladen als erzählende Musik ernst, da zaubert er in der "Barcarolle" Stimmungen und durchleuchtet die "Polonaise-Fantaisie" sehr transparent. Nicht viele können das so."
(Michael Stenger)

American Record Guide - November / December 2004
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"The DVD video (Arthaus 100 455 ; Godowsky-Liszt) immortalizes pianist Schliessmann. ...

... Schliessmann throws himself into all of this with gusto and impressive technique. ...

... Schliessmann is too good a pianist for anyone to pass on this. Besides, the Fantasy in F minor and Barcarolle are among the finest to be had..."
(Alan Becker)

Frankfurter Neue Presse - October 11, 2004
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Feiner Erlkönig

"Zwei Meistern der Transkription und des Arrangierens hat der Pianist Burkard Schliessmann mit seiner neuen DVD ein Denkmal gesetzt: Franz Liszt und dem New Yorker Klaviervirtuosen und Komponisten Leopold Godowsky (1870–1938). Godowskys Konzertparaphrasen über Walzer und Themen von Johann Strauss («Fledermaus», «Ein Künstlerleben») sind Zeugnisse eines geistreichen Umgangs mit dem sinfonischen Notenmaterial. Durch Schliessmanns gestalterische Finesse und Anschlagskultur erhält diese Musik den Esprit, der ihr zusteht. Das trifft auch auf die elegant ausgeformten Liszt-Transkriptionen populärer Schubert-Lieder («Forelle», «Erlkönig») zu. Dem DVD-Paket liegt eine Audio-DVD bei, auf der sich Schliessmann mit vier Balladen, der Fantaisie in f-Moll, der Barcarolle op. 60 und der Polonaise-Fantaisie op. 61 als geschmeidiger Chopin-Interpret ausweist."

Classics Today France - septembre 2004
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"Schliessmann est d'une rectitude rare, tant dans sa position que dans son jeu. C'est mieux que quelqu'un qui en fait des tonnes et la manière de faire sonner le piano est fort belle, avec un son très nourri..."
(Christophe Husse)

MusicWeb-International - August 16, 2004
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" Recording of the Year 2004 "
" Recording of the Month "

An expert and highly interesting set of Chopin performances from one of the greatest pianists of current time. Schliessmann displays a fabulous technique, superb musical instincts, and an inquisitive nature. His blend of intuition and intellect is riveting, and listeners will experience a truly unique look at these Chopin masterpieces. In the standard CD format, the soundstage is exceptional with a rich and well-detailed environment. In the multi-channel format, the sound is more expansive, revealing nuances not available in the standard format.

"This is an outstanding recording, and I would expect nothing less from Burkard Schliessmann who is one of the most compelling pianists of our time. With a fabulous technique, superb musical instincts, and a truly inquisitive nature leading to distinctive interpretations based on extensive cultural and biographical research, Schliessmann blends the most rewarding aspects of an intellectual and intuitive approach to all the music he performs. When a new recording from an artist such as Murray Perahia is released, we have a fairly good idea how he will play the music based on past recordings and concert appearances. With a few recordings for Bayer under his belt, the primary insight we have concerning Schliessmann is that he will take a highly individualized path like the trail-blazing pianists of the early 20th century combined with the superior technical wizardry of the 21st century pianist.

That Schliessmann is his own man is not unexpected given that his teacher was Shura Cherkassky. In all of Schliessmann's recordings he explores colors and textures, often defying expectations with a patience and maturity well beyond his young-adult status. The eminent music critic Harold Schonberg has called Schliessmann's playing "representative of the best of the modern school". My view is that Schliessmann's artistry bears a striking resemblance to some of the pianistic titans including Alfred Cortot and Walter Gieseking.

Schliessmann's new disc programs seven of Chopin's most popular and large-scale piano works. Each is wide in architectural design and displays great depth and diversity of emotional content. Worthy performances must reveal the most tender and poignant moments as well as the passages of tremendous energy, strength and urgency. Most important, the logic and cohesion of the myriad themes cannot be forgotten as they merge into a magnificent tapestry that needs every musical strand to play its role.

Burkard Schliessmann is more than up to the task of giving the full measure of the above qualities. He has a vision for each work that insures a sense of inevitability and overall scope. His pin-point articulation is so well projected that even the most caressing notes and phrases have a strength rarely encountered in other recorded versions of these works. Schliessmann's sonority and supple phrasing are reminiscent of the legendary Claudio Arrau, and his inflections emit great meaning. Perhaps most impressive are the lower voices that are consistently given a granite-like edifice with wonderful clarity and contribution toward the overall coherence of each work on the program. Here are just a few highlights of the disc that I have kept to a minimum in the interest of not being overly redundant:

Ballade in G minor - Schliessmann immediately sets his own course in the first subject where he uses rather demonstrative pauses between motifs instead of legato transitioning. I had never heard the work played in this manner, and the initial effect can be startling. However, it soon becomes clear that Schliessmann is adding another emotional and structural layer to the music that enriches it through heightened contrast with the traditionally melancholy and smooth flowing lines.

Ballade in F major - I do not believe there is any music more serene and comforting than the F major's first subject. Schliessmann offers wonderfully lilting phrasing that seems to make time stand still while also conveying a sense of spiritual closure. The subsequent angst and power of the succeeding themes has a spell-binding effect from Schliessmann with a magnificently stern quality and tremendous bass strokes that growl in exquisite detail from their foundation.

Ballade in F minor - Never before have I been so strongly aware of the pent-up human urges that are seething below the music's surface but taking so long to erupt. With incisive inflections and powerful bass lines, Schliessmann offers a potent balance of voices that allows Chopin's tension and full breadth of emotional content their full measure. Every time I listen to the performance, I am on the edge of my seat waiting anxiously for fulfillment.

Fantaisie in F minor - I am always a little disappointed when a Chopin recital does not include the Fantaisie in F minor, because I consider it the composer's greatest large-scale piano work with its constant and transcendent invention. Whatever you might want from a romantic-era piano composition, the Fantaisie has it all including a strong capacity for narrative examination. Perhaps most important is the intense heroism that permeates the work; even the prayer-like intermezzo is delivered by a proud and confident personality.

I find the Fantaisie the best Schliessmann performance on the program. His total command of the idiom never lets us forget that heroism is at the center of the work, and his narration is clear and rich. Also, I detect some strong anger and brutality in the interpretation, more than in other versions I have heard. Once acclimated, these additional layers of meaning enhance the sweep and narrative properties of the work.

The disc's sound quality is exceptional in the standard CD format with a rich, well detailed and resonant environment. In the multi-channel format, the sound is fantastic; the breadth of the recording opens up and reveals nuances and meanings not available in the standard format. However, I do want to emphasize that readers who have not yet taken advantage of the SACD format should not be wary of acquiring the disc. Put simply, the superb Schliessmann performances shine through regardless of the equipment at hand.

I listened to many comparative Chopin recordings in reviewing the Schliessmann disc, giving particular note to the recent discs of the Ballades from Stephen Hough on Hyperion and Stefen Vladar on Harmonia Mundi. At no time did Schliessmann's interpretations take a back seat to any of the comparison discs, and the narrative scope and vision he gives the Four Ballades far surpasses the episodic qualities of the Hough and Vladar performances.

In conclusion, I consider the Schliessmann disc an essential acquisition for piano enthusiasts. He challenges our perceptions of the great classical piano works and gives us illuminating performances of exceptional pianism. I also strongly recommend that readers investigate his other Bayer recordings, each one as superb as the Chopin offering. Personally, I would love to hear Schliessmann's way in Bach and Shostakovich keyboard works with their intense contrapuntal leanings. In the meantime, any disc from Schliessmann is a treasure to experience."

(original text - "Recording of the month" - you'll find here)(PDF-download)
(original text - "Recording of the Year 2004" - you'll find here)
(Donald Satz)

Classical Archives, USA - August 1, 2004
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"Performer: Mr. Schliessmann is one of the very few young-adult pianists who I consider likely to attain legendary status by the end of his career. The technique is assured and expert, musical instinct is fabulous, and intellect is abundant and based on extensive research into biographical and cultural considerations. Above all else, Schliessmann conveys the cohesive properties of a piece of music with an architectural sweep second to none. Schliessmann has been recording for the Bayer label, and every one of his few recordings possesses the above qualities. An artist who challenges us to re-think our preconceptions of music and composers, Schliessmann combines the individualized interpretive stance of the great early 20th century pianists with the technical wizardry demanded of the 21st century pianist. Chopin Performances: Each one is a gem and loaded with new insights. Schliessmann gives us demonstrative pauses at the end of motifs in the Ballade in G minor instead of legato transitioning; this approach significantly alters and expands on the emotional content of the first subject. In the Ballade in F major's gorgeous first subject, Schliessmann's lilting phrases seem to make time stand still while also offering spiritual closure. Later, the tremendous bass strokes growl with exquisite detail from their foundation. Schliessmann's Ballade in F minor has me on the edge of my seat anxiously waiting for fulfillment. Never before have I head a version that makes me so strongly aware of the pent-up human urges seething below the music's surface but taking so long to erupt. Schliessmann is a master of the long line, and it is on glorious display in the F minor. The performance of the Fantaisie in F minor is perhaps Schliessmann's crowning glory of his Chopin program. I consider the work Chopin's best large-scale piano composition with its transcendent and constant invention. Heroism is at the heart of the F minor, and nobody delivers it as completely as Schliessmann. Even in the prayer-like intermezzo, he conveys a confident and proud demeanor. Further, the narrative properties of the interpretation are spell-binding, and I detect some very angry and brutal elements I've not heard before in other versions. Sound Quality: Not owning an SACD player, I first listened to the disc on my standard equipment. The sound is excellent with ample resonance and superb depth and richness, allowing Burkard's detail to ring through convincingly. I did locate a fellow classical music enthusiast in Albuquerque who has the SACD and related equipment; we both found the sound significantly upgraded in terms of clarity and depth. Also, there are nuances that don't come through as clearly on a standard CD player. However, I assure readers that performances as good as Schliessmann's are compelling no matter what equipment is being employed. Don's Conclusion: Distinctive and riveting performances essential for all piano enthusiasts. Burkard Schliessmann has it all: detail, sweep, narration, inflections from upper voices that pierce the heart, and strongly projected bass voices that contrast magnificently with primary melody lines. From this reviewer's perspective, Schliessmann stands tall on the pedestal of greatness occupied by the legends of the keyboard including Alfred Cortot, Walter Gieseking, and Claudio Arrau."
(Donald Satz)

MusicWeb-International - June 16, 2004
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" ... Of today’s pianists recording Schumann, Schliessmann is the most distinctive as well as being reminiscent of the great pianists of the early 20th century. His blend of musical instinct and intellectualism is a joy to experience."
(Donald Satz)

High Fidelity Review - March 9, 2004
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SACD - Review by Mark Jordan

"Fellow composer Robert Schumann once described Frédéric Chopin’s piano works as “cannons camouflaged with flowers”. With their debut multichannel Super Audio Compact Disc, Bayer Records of Germany gives us a performance by Burkard Schliessmann of Chopin’s ‘Ballades’ which presents those extremes as facets of the unified artistic force of a composer who, despite his extensive fame, is still clearly underrated. Instead of histrionics or exaggeration, Schliessmann gives us Chopin the musical thinker. Whether or not this new recording dislodges any of your favorites (and it may!), it certainly sheds new light on an ultimately elusive genius.

But before turning to this new release, let us examine some of the major recordings of the ‘Ballades’ from over the years. Back in the classic era of 78 r.p.m. discs, the legendary French pianist Alfred Cortot recorded the complete ‘Ballades’ in 1926 and 1933, with the latter set prevailing. In the ‘G minor Ballade’, Cortot features a flowing and free manner, savoring every new flavor in the ever-changing mood of the piece. As is usual with Cortot, there are some finger slips and approximated passages along the way, but his lack of grandstanding combined with a fleet and vertiginous ending make his rendition quite refreshing, despite the archaic recorded sound. Cortot’s take on the second ‘Ballade’ is masterful in its portrayal of growing unease and passion, and his version of the fourth is fleet and dashing, worlds apart from the visionary epic style of many recent performances. The place where Cortot comes to grief is in the third ‘Ballade’, in A-flat major. There Cortot seems unable to take the piece at face value and goes in search of ways to shade it and make it seem more dramatic, leading to some odd distortions. And that’s not even considering the finger twists he gets into in his overwrought climax.

Moving forwards a generation, the brilliant but inconsistent Samson François recorded the ‘Ballades’ in 1954 in clean monophonic sound. François is more ‘arch’ in his interpretations than Cortot, flashing his best debonair charm in places and a devil-may-care insouciance in others. François’ is the fastest traversal of the ‘Ballades’ that I’ve heard, but in places such as the end of the ‘G minor Ballade’, it seems he’s more interested in his own virtuoso flair than in the work itself. Perhaps his finest moments are in the ‘A-flat Major Ballade’, where François is flirtatious and playful in a way that eluded Cortot.

Moving into the stereo age, we meet the towering performance of the ‘Ballades’ by Polish-born Arthur Rubinstein from 1959, a performance that has greatly influenced the current conception of these works. Rubinstein seems to define the modern approach of epic grandiosity as he finds a spacious poise in many pages, but his alternately icy and demonic flashes keep the dramatic interest going. I wonder if I am alone in finding the closing pages of Rubinstein’s ‘G minor Ballade’ not quite up to the level of the rest of the recording. Once those sweeping scales come in, it almost seems that Rubinstein drops back a notch in intensity, as if a bit abashed at seeing a fairly standard virtuoso touch at the climax of what has been overall a complex drama. Fortunately, the unusual and dizzying contrary-motion scales at the very end show him regaining his nerve to close with a great torrent of sound, recorded close-up and rich in the 1950’s RCA manner.

Few subsequent records rivaled Rubinstein’s until the distinctive 1987 Deutsche Grammophon recording by another Pole, Krystian Zimerman, a recording which coincidentally duplicates much of the repertory on Schliessmann’s new disc. Zimerman moves past Rubinsteinian poise and stakes out a new territory of hushed and tragic intensity in quiet passages and icy glitter in the more violent parts. Without lacking aristocratic poise himself, Zimerman adds a high-strung intensity that flirts with mannerism, and a visionary otherworldliness apt to emerge in unexpected places. Though not embraced by all, the recording made fair claim for Zimerman’s status as a major Chopin interpreter. Characteristically, Zimerman is a degree slower than Rubinstein, who was himself a degree slower than Cortot and François, thus moving the mainstream of Chopin performance into a very broad plain. Not that Zimerman lacks technique and drama – his headlong run into the closing pages of the ‘G minor Ballade’ is one of the wonders of the modern age, culminating in a dramatic stagger through Chopin’s final “chromataclysm” (if I may be pardoned for inventing a word to summarize that strange and wild moment!).

But in the opposite corner of modern Chopin performance is the American Murray Perahia, who recorded the ‘Ballades’ in 1994. Perahia proves something of a throwback to Cortot’s manner. Perahia has a less self-conscious style than the current norm – he seems to flow very naturally with the music, feeling no need to demonstrate his “art” or “insight”. He flows more convincingly from section to section than is usually seen, keeping the ebb and flow in mind. There’s not as much banging about in the loud parts as most performances, but if we keep in mind anecdotes of Chopin’s own playing, we would suppose that his playing sounded much more like this than the heavy-duty string-breakers like Horowitz. (Of course, this is an ironic thing, as Perahia was for a time an associate of Horowitz. He finally had to leave behind Horowitz and Horowitz’s style, because it simply didn’t work for him.) Perahia finds the intimate soul of the ‘Ballades’ in his performances quite unlike any other recording.

The next major recording to come along was that by Evgeny Kissin in 1999 for RCA. Kissin first caught the world’s attention with performances of Chopin’s ‘Piano Concerti’ at the age of twelve, but there’s mounting evidence that he is not very temperamentally suited to Chopin. Here, Kissin seems quite arch and rather flashy, as if playing to reach the back row in a football stadium. His version of the ‘A-flat Ballade’ completely misses the inherent playfulness of the work. Though largely lacking the inwardness that makes the finest Chopin performances so endearing, Kissin’s renditions are brilliant and exciting from a dramatic and virtuosic point of view. In a way, one imagines that if we could go back in time and hear Franz Liszt play Chopin, it would have sounded something like Kissin’s performances.

Now, with so much ground covered by past masters, is there anything new that Burkard Schliessmann could possibly bring to these keyboard warhorses? This recording says, “yes”. Schliessmann appears to make a conscious effort to gather the disparate strands of early twenty-first century Chopin playing and weave them together. In terms of tempo, Schliessmann’s timings are close to the Zimerman end of the spectrum, even surpassing him in the ‘G minor Ballade’, yet his manner is closer to the flow and organic growth of Perahia. Schliessmann concerns himself above all else with finding the long line, the inner logic to hold these eventful pieces together. By contrast, for all his flash, Kissin seems to deliver a series of dramatic episodes that don’t truly hold together. If Zimerman’s enormous emotional range holds together, it’s only through the sheer willpower of the player. Schliessmann instead keeps the contrasts in perspective, to let the composer’s logic show through more clearly, thus supporting the thesis that Schliessmann proposes in his in-depth liner notes, which is that Chopin is often unfairly dismissed as a maudlin miniaturist who never developed into a deeply substantial composer. Though it is easy to miss some of the visceral thrills of Rubinstein or Zimerman, Schliessmann’s point is valid, and his performance proves it. If anyone ever doubts the substance beneath the emotional dramas of Chopin’s music, they must remember that a musical performance can be distorted by a lack of “deep thinking” by the performer. The structure and logic are there.

To look at some more specific moments: Schliessmann’s opening in the ‘G minor Ballade’ is even more tragic and thoughtful than Zimerman’s. Schliessmann presents the musical strands one by one, and then begins pulling them together, leading into a very concentrated version of the first theme. Chopin had a very staunchly classical streak, and examination of his compositions shows it at work constantly in his structures. This doesn’t mean, however, that Schliessmann is inexpressive or cold. It merely means that Schliessmann chooses not to play up the drama for mere titillation or easy thrills. Likewise, moving into the second theme, Schliessmann plays with tenderness, but without the hypersensitivity on display in many other versions. Whereas most treat the piece as a sequence of events, Schliessmann seeks to unify and show that it can be played as different facets of a single gem. The cumulative effect of this approach brings its own strengths, even if the adrenaline factor isn’t in the range of Kissin or François. But the spacious tempo allows the listener to focus in and hear notes that are usually just a blur. And, for those who demand at least a little flash, Schliessmann deploys a few bursts of sharp-edged brilliance in the final scales just to remind the listener that he can. Although Schliessmann does not ultimately have the galvanic edge of a Zimerman (who else does?), he certainly has a deep understanding of how this music works. There are a few places, such as the closing pages of the ‘F Major Ballade’ (which ends in a vehement A minor), where Schliessmann’s detailed delineation of the musical argument is maintained at the expense of forward movement. Schliessmann’s crowning achievement in this recording is the ‘A-flat Major Ballade’, where he pulls off the unlikely feat of matching Perahia’s sense of playful delight, and variety of touch and color. And Schliessmann’s magically gentle bass runs are worth the price of admission themselves.

Also included on this disc are similarly thoughtful, flowing performances of the ‘Barcarolle’ (played with charm instead of nostalgia), the ‘Polonaise-Fantasie in A-flat’ (with much less hand-wringing than Horowitz or Argerich), and the great ‘Fantasy in F minor’, where Schliessmann strikes an effective compromise between Perahia’s wondrous fantasy and Zimerman’s alienated obsessiveness.

So, to go back to Schumann’s analogy, if Cortot, François, and Perahia give us Chopin’s flowers; and Rubinstein, Zimerman, and Kissin give us the underlying cannon; Schliessmann’s approach concentrates on synthesizing the two to the point that they can’t be considered separately. This makes for an interestingly probing, even cerebral take on the ‘Ballades’ that may not dislodge everyone’s dear favorites, but will certainly give Chopin lovers good food for thought, as well as ammunition to defend the composer from those who haven’t looked deeply enough into his works to understand them.

In terms of recorded sound, this is an auspicious debut in multichannel for Bayer Records. The sound is fairly intimate, suggesting a moderate-sized hall, and Schliessmann’s performances are well adjusted to this space. By comparison, Zimerman’s 1987 digital recording on Deutsche Grammophon sounds like a much larger space, which suits Zimerman’s more epic approach, although the distancing of Zimerman’s piano in combination with the 16-bit recording technology of the period lends a brittle, glassy sheen to Zimerman’s sound. Again, that’s not entirely inappropriate to Zimerman’s cool approach, and here Schliessmann’s approach goes hand-in-hand with the intimacy and warmth of the recorded sound. There is a fairly quick decay of the tones on the high-end, possibly suggesting a lush, well-upholstered complement of seats in the hall, or perhaps wall hangings absorbing excess reverberation. Whatever the case, there is a richness of warmth and overtones in the sound captured here, without the glassy ringing that mars so many recordings of these stormy dramas. The rear channels define the space, bringing the sound envelope around you without drawing attention to the rear channels themselves through excessive bounce-back. Indeed, when listening, I wasn’t able to detect any specific bounce from the rear channels at all, but I could certainly tell the difference upon switching to the stereo program of the SACD layer. Though remaining handsome, the sound lost a great deal of its depth and “room presence”. Granted, there is a touch of diffusion in the multichannel sound, but the gain in sense of space outweighs it considerably.

The sound of the Compact Disc layer of this hybrid release is noticeably less inviting than the Super Audio layer. The highs lose a little of the halo of overtones that a piano naturally creates. The CD layer also brings a slight muddiness to the lower mid-range and upper bass (at least in comparison to the SACD layers). In comparison to other CD recordings of these works, the above comments about intimacy and warmth still apply. Those accustomed to the sheen of Zimerman, or the flash of Kissin may find this performance and its recorded sound a little subdued, at first. But give it a close listen, and you just may find yourself won over by its insight and honesty."

(Mark Sebastian Jordan)

in, USA  - Volume 27, No. 4—March / April 2004
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"... Schliessmann is a fascinating artist ..."

"... His performance of the Liszt Sonata makes clear his extremely personal approach. Avoiding both the architectural rigor of Pollini and the sheer intensity of Horowitz, Schliessmann offers an unusually inward account of the music, on the slow side of normal (certainly he resists the temptation to race through the opening of the fugue), more likely to apply the brakes for interrogation of expressive details than to surge ahead for sheer drama. The technique is absolutely secure, but there’s no razzle-dazzle. As usual, this interpretive perspective seems to stem from a deeply considered study of the piece in terms of Liszt’s own life..."

"His new Chopin disc, at least when heard in surround sound (on either SACD or DVD-A), is arguably the best piano recording I’ve ever heard."
(Peter J. Rabinowitz)

Piano - News - VII / 2004
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"Schliessmanns Chopin-Spiel .... ist jenseits von visueller Hausmannskost. Radikal entparfümiert hat Schliessmann die Werke (Balladen 1 - 4, Fantaisie op. 49, Barcarolle op. 60, Polonaise-Fantaisie op. 61), verzichtet er auf den romantisch kurzweiligen Oberflächenreiz. Stattdessen setzt er die inneren Entwicklungen mit den inneren Beweggründen der Kompositionen frei und zusammen; ist es diese Balance aus einer sich nie ausstellenden Intellektualität, aus epischer Melodik und beredter Wirkung, mit der Schliessmann Chopin neu und nachhaltig erlebbar macht."
(Guido Fischer)

Frankfurter Neue Presse - January 7, 2004
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"... Chopins vier Balladen in einer sehr männlichen Interpretation, fast streng, von gewichtigem Ernst und fern von jedem fröhlichen Draufgängertum."

"... Der Wille zur Deutlichkeit bleibt bestimmend..."

"... Von ähnlichem Gewicht sind dann auch die Barcarolle op. 60 und die Polonaise-Fantaisie. Ein ausgezeichneter Klang rundet den positiven Eindruck ab."
(Rudolf Jöckle)

American Record Guide - November / December 2003
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"Among many recent Chopin releases, this stands out as a different, distinctive one, both in terms of Burkard Schliessmann's playing, the arresting program, and the content of the rather extensive notes, which offer a plethora of original source material on Chopin, his music, and his pianistic artistry.

The program is a choice selection of Chopin's supreme masterpieces. It includes his final two large-scaled works, the Barcarolle and Polonaise-Fantaisie (both 1846). For the pianist, these miraculous compositions pose the most extreme difficulties imaginable, both interpretively and technically. The last is Chopin's most advanced work, formally and harmonically so rarified that even Liszt seems to have been put off by it, at least initially.

There is a good deal of beautiful playing -- careful, expressive, intelligent, fiery -- to be heard in this recording. Schliessmann's approach to Chopin is generally bold and big-scaled, yet in the quieter moments he is consistently musical and pleasing. There is no question that we are encountering here a substantial talent, who has thought through these works intensively and has formulated a concept of his own about how they should sound. This is especially noticeable in the Ballades, which he plays in a free, narrative fashion, as if telling a story. Once in awhile, a fine line separates his liberally applied nuance from sentimentalism, but that line is never crossed.

Schliessmann has built a finely forged technique, which allows him to express himself fully and persuasively and he uses the piano extremely well (it is a Steinway concert grand and sounds luxurious). (...) Schliessmann tends to play Chopin quite literally; while this promotes clarity, it can sometimes brake the natural spinning out of musical ideas.

The Ballades are the most enjoyable performances, especially the challenging Fourth, which opens enchantingly, always an auger of good things to come. (...) Themes II and III of the Barcarolle are clangerous, and in poetry and shading the performance falls short, for there is an overreaching in a dynamic sense.

The Polonaise-Fantaisie is given an excellent, sympathetic performance and the opening page may be the most enthralling of the entire program. It is quite hypnotic. (...)

It is easy to imagine that the sonorousness of Schliessmann's Chopin might ideally suit the music of Schumann, Brahms, and Liszt, for his pianism shows all the ingredients required for their works. Completely a matter of opinion, of course, since many of the greatest pianists--Horowitz, Kissin, Gilels, Zimerman, Argerich, Pollini -- to name only a few, play Chopin too heavily."
(David Mulbury)

American Record Guide  - September / October 2003
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"These releases in the new DVD-Audio format demonstrate the efficacy of surround sound even when the subject matter is a solo instrument. The extra channels open the sound field and help replace the four walls of your listening room with the acoustics of a fine hall."


"Schliessmann’s Ballades are sculptured with exquisite control; his are not the most impetuous readings but their subtlety never disappoints. Some imaginative felicities (particularly in 3) help the soloist personalize these oft-played works, and the remainder of the concert is no less impressive."


"MAWA offers video of one performance: the Waltz in C-sharp minor. To say the visuals on this selection are unconventional would be an understatement—they’re about a ten on the bizarre scale."
(Mark Koldys)

«Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians» - USA, 2002
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" ... remarkable German pianist ... (whose) pianism is notable for its resplendit technical mastery while remaining ever true to the high idealism of the storied tradition of German keyboard artistry. While his repertoire ranges from Bach to Bartók, he has become particularly known for his descerning interpretatations of Mendelssohn, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Scriabin and Rachmaninoff."
(Dennis McIntire)

Frankfurte Neue Presse - March 4, 2002
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"... Begegnung mit einem anspruchsvollen Virtuosen-Programm. Einem Programm, das die Neigung zur Strenge, zur Ordnung, weniger die schweifende Ungewissheit der Gefühle bestimmte. Da bot die Sonate op. 10 Nr. 3 den rechten Einstieg. Geschickt öffnete Schliessmann, präzise artikulierend, den Blick auf Zusammenhänge.
Dabei fand er für das "Largo e mesto" dunkle Würde, das Finale blieb ohne Koketterien. Schumanns "Kreisleriana" spielte er mit großem Ton, mit hoher Intensität und enormem Risiko. Und nicht ohne Reibungen, wobei er bei aller energischer Zeichnung die Momente des Überschwangs stets bändigte. Zum bestechenden Höhepunkt geriet Liszts H-Moll-Sonate. Schliessmann versteht sie nicht als Virtuosenstück, sondern er spielt sie, die Form erhellend, mit schönem, kraftvollem Ernst, schlüssigen Übergängen, aber auch mit hochvirtuosem Zugriff bishin zu den gemeißelten Prestissimo-Oktaven. Chopins 4. Ballade (f-moll) stand am Ende, Schliessmann nahm sie agogisch gezügelt, nicht als Ersatz-Nocturne, sondern schärfte durch dynamische Stufung die Entwicklung der Melodie. Keine Exaltationen, Klarheit statt Zauberei. Das Agitato des Finales ließ danach keinen Wunsch offen."
(Rudolf Jöckle)

American Record Guide - September / October 2000
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"Burkard Schliessmann's previous discs have elicited high praise in recent issues of ARG. Donald Vroon went so far as to describe him as "the best pianist I know at entering the world and expressing the awareness of the German romantics" (July/Aug 1999). That is high praise indeed, but I think it's defensible. There is something personal and unique about Schliessmann's Schumann. It does not sound like anyone else's. I loved his earlier recording of the Fantasy in C, which was coupled with an equally magnificent Liszt Sonata in B minor (Bayer 100 293, Mar/Apr, under Liszt), but I'm even more impressed by this release. These are not beautiful performances--at least not in the usual sense of "beautiful". Schliessmann makes no attempt to prettify this music or to smooth out its (sometimes) rough pianistic edges. Instead, he accepts the music on its own terms and in the process manages to enter into Schumann's tormented sound world as few other pianists have done, allowing it to become an external expression of Schumann's tormented inner psyche. He is better than any other pianist I have heard--including Richter--in conveying the sense that this is deeply troubled music composed by a deeply troubled soul. Only Yves Nat (EMI 67141) approaches such profound identification with this music, but his playing lacks Schliessmann's flawless technique. Schliessmann's playing also bespeaks an uncommon sensitivity to Schumann's constantly fluctuating mood swings, from the passionate to the lyrical, from the tormented to the consoled, from the agitated to the serene. He does not have Wilhelm Kempff's poetic lyricism (DG 435 045) or Sviatoslav Richter's demonic intensity (Melodiya). But he does have many other sterling pianistic qualities--among them, a golden tone and an uncanny ability to invest Schumann's (often) thick chords and chordal progressions with great tonal clarity, making it utterly transparent. Whether he is coaxing these glorious chords from his instrument or executing Schumann's wild, tricky, and (often) uncomfortable passagework, every note is there: nothing is glossed over, slighted, or swept under the pianistic rug. Not even Horowitz's staggering performance of the Kreisleriana (CBS 42409) has quite this kind of sustained and cumulative impact. This is Schumann playing for the ages." 
(John Beversluis)

American Record Guide - March / April 2000
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"In the notes to this remarkable album, the young German pianist Burkard Schliessman quotes Eduard Hanslick's infamous attack on Lizst's Sonata as an unplayable "monster", a "bloodthirsty onslaught against everything music stands for", something that stops "all criticism, all discussion". If one assumed the context to be positive rather than hostile, many of these observations, argues Schliessman, are actually correct. At least Hanslick understood the Liszt revolution. "Hanslick had fully grasped the work's outrageous nature and taken up his stand against it". This daring approach to the program notes is consonant with Schliessman's playing. He indeed treats the piece as an outrageous "assault" against musical propriety. Liszt was the avant-garde of the Romantics, who regarded himself as a "modern" composer. Hanslick was right to fear Liszt, whose audacious harmony and free thematic transformation influenced everyone from Bartok to Mennin. Schliessman's bold approach emphasizes both qualities: his amazing clarity against a big, multi-layered sonority makes us hear all of Liszt's crazy, cascading notes, with melodies and sub-themes revealed in dazzling relief; his penetrating tone combined with spare pedaling gives Liszt's dissonance a powerful crunch; his rhythmic freedom makes every moment unpredictable, creating a feeling of constant transformation rather than tidy exposition and development. Above all, the performance has wildness and passion: the Grandioso melody is spine-tingling in its grandeur -- and continues to be so every time it appears, always with different emphases; the deep octaves opening and closing the Sonata cast a dark, seductive shadow.
This spellbinding performance calls attention to itself, as Romantic playing should, and thus to Liszt's music. It is an authentically Romantic reading. The Schumann Fantasie is even more astonishing, if only because one hears exciting recordings of it so rarely. (Recordings of the Liszt by Argerich, Horowitz, Cliburn, and Watts storm the heavens.) Modern pianists apparently struggle so hard for coherence in the Fantasie they miss the wildness, the whole point of the piece. In tamer hands, it simply dies after the tempestuous opening movement. Schumann dedicated it, after all, to Liszt, as Liszt dedicated his Sonata to Schumann, making them "interlinked", in Schliessman's words, in their mutually "ambitious achievement" -- nothing less than the creation of a new musical universe, one of "intuition and inspiration". To this pianist, the Fantasie is "magical music", the "song of the cosmos"; its unresolved passion and suspended chords make the world of Tristan "already omnipresent". That is how he plays it. The opening, an explosion of yearning, has a melancholy exaltation that sets up the entire piece. Schliessman understands the Romantic temperament in all its complexity and messiness. It isn't a question of taming Schumann's explosive, contradictory emotions but of going with them wherever they lead. On a purely sonic level, it doesn't matter how many hidden details one brings out if the big picture -- what Schliessman calls the "graphic panorama" -- is lost. In the second theme of the second movement, he rolls and breaks up chords to produce, chaotic, brilliant shards of color; we hear every inner voice, as a "modern" analytical pianist would like, but also the hugeness of Schumann's sound and conception. Even this short section takes on cosmic dimensions. As for the heavenly finale, it is hard to remember a performance that brings out so much interlocking melo dy at every level of the keyboard with such an unbroken rapture. Schliessman lets his big, bronzen tone ring out even in the most tender moments, producing a new intensity, especially in the heavenly modulations of the coda, rather than the wimpy letdown so many pianists produce. This is not "pretty" playing, nor is it dry and analytical. It is only for those willing to submit to what Schliessman calls the "unpremeditated transformations" and "wide-spanned arcs of sound" of Romantic music. The unusual recording captures this "compulsive" turbulence ideally: it is so intimate and close-up we are almost inside the instrument, yet the sense of larger-than-life sound warmly resonating in a real hall is thrillingly present.
The twentieth century ended with a new Romanticism in musical composition. This riveting release makes one hope something similar will surface in performance style as well. Not to be missed!"
(Jack Sullivan)

Pizzicato - V / 2003; Classic Highlights
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"... Die so erzielte Klanglichkeit, der ganze Reichtum an Obertönen geben Schliessmanns romantisch empfundenen Chopin-Spiel eine zusätzliche Fülle. Dabei bleibt dieser durchdacht und besonnen gespielte Chopin frei von dynamischen Kontrasten und sucht die Wirkung eher in einem Musizieren, in dem der Klang breit ausufern kann und so streckenweise meditative Kraft gewinnt ."

Piano - News - V / 2000
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"Mit gleich zwei, in allen Belangen anspruchsvollen Werken, widmet sich Burkard Schliessmann Schumann - und gewinnt fast alles. Weit hält er Schumann von dem Hochromantischen Aplomp à la Brahms und Liszt fern, was eine großflächige Organisation auch des Innenlebens garantiert, die nicht von irgenwelchen Salonturbulenzen gestört wird. Denn Schliessmanns Glaube ist der an die poetische Wirksamkeit, in der gerade auch sein markanter Duktus im Rhythmus vor hoher Sinnfälligkeit strotzt. Die intensive, bisweilen eigenwillige Beschäftigung mit dem Fantastischen, dem Rauschenden der Musik ist bei allem Temperament so feinsinnig geblieben, was schon in dieser Art der musikantischen Analyse ein kleines Wunder ist. Zumal Schliessmanns manuelle Fähigkeiten kaum Wünsche offen lassen."
(Guido Fischer)

Stereo - V / 2000
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"Der Pianist Burkard Schliessmann wendet sich gegen den "Mittelklasse- Akademismus" im Klavierspiel und erfüllt in seiner Aufnahme von zwei wesensverwandten Werken hohe Maßstäbe. Wagemutig nähert er sich Schumanns Fantasie, in der er auf sinnfällige Art und Weise Stimmkorrespondenzen aufdeckt und eine "Appassionata" mit wirklich bezwingendem Atem entdeckt. Dynamisch fein gezeichnet und beziehungsreich im Blick auf die Details gerät ihm die Liszt-Sonate. Der pianistischen Bravour dieses Stücks begegnet Schliessmann mit souveräner Kraft. Dass er sehr klare, profilierte Klangbilder entwirft, gehört unzweifelhaft zu seinen Stärken."
(Michael Stenger)

Klassik heute - IV / 2000
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"Burkard Schliessmann durchdringt die komplizierten Werkstrukturen mit analytisch gespitzten Fingern. Sein selbsverfaßter Begleittext ergänzt einleuchtend den intellektuellen Charakter seiner Interpretationen."...

"Schliessmanns Wahrheitsentfaltungen in Sachen Schumann und Liszt sind beeindruckend und auf höchstem Niveau."...
(Peter Schlüer)

Online Musikmagazin - IV / 2000
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Zwischen romantischem Drängen und Ausgewogenheit

Offenbar ist der Pianist Burkard Schliessmann Romantiker durch und durch: Jedenfalls stehen Brahms, Liszt und Schumann im Mittelpunkt seiner bisherigen CD-Aufnahmen, deren jüngste im Juni erschienen ist: Die Kreisleriana und Symphonischen Etüden Schumanns. Das Online Musik Magazin hat das zum Anlass genommen, sich einmal alle Aufnahmen des Pianisten genauer anzuhören. (oder besser: fast alle, denn neben den drei genannten Komponisten gibt es noch einen vierten, um den sich Schliessmann besonders bemüht,nämlich Alexander Scriabin.

Einer durchaus individuellen und außergewöhnlichen Annäherung an Brahms´ Musik begegnet man in Burkard Schliessmanns Anfang der 90er-Jahre aufgenommenen Interpretationen einiger der früheren sowie der spätesten Klavierwerke des Komponisten in der Veröffentlichung der ANTES Edition. Von äußerster Leidenschaftlichkeit und Empfindsamkeit geprägt geht der junge Pianist im engsten Sinne "romantisch" mit den Brahms'schen Soloklavierstücken um. Neben einer beispielhaften technischen Leistung wird ein sensibles Gespür für die Melodieführung deutlich (etwa im Mittelteil der h-moll-Rhapsodie op. 79 und in den Klavierstücken e-moll und C-Dur op. 119), aber auch die Mittelstimmen werden gelungen hervorgehoben. (...)

(...) Besonders die Stücke, die auf traditionelle Kompositionstechniken in den Variationen über ein Thema von Händel op. 24 zurückgreifen (16., 19., 25), können - mit origineller Klangfarbe gespielt - überzeugen. Der (seltene) Brahms'sche Humor (in den Variationen 1 und 3) kommt durch das Spiel Schliessmanns gut zur Geltung.

Wenn man auf der bereits 1987 entstandenen Debut-CD, die Schliessmann für Bayer Records eingespielt hat, in der "Vision" aus den "Transzendenten Etüden" die Psychologie der Liszt'schen Musik noch nicht restlos mitbekommt, so ändert sich der Eindruck von Schliessmanns Liszt-Interpretationen in der 1999 eingespielten h-moll Sonate beträchtlich. Die verfeinerte, äußerst brillante Technik, mit der er nicht nur Klangfarben mehrfach differenziert, sondern musikalische Zusammenhänge gut nachvollziehbar in einer sinnvollen dramaturgischen Entwicklung darstellt, wird mit bewegender Dramatik, schöpferischer Lyrik und explosiver Sensibilität verbunden. Nicht anders bei der Fantasie C-Dur op. 17 von Robert Schumann (auf der gleichen CD): Stiltreu entspricht eine inbrünstige Atmosphäre der Anweisung "durchaus phantastisch und leidenschaftlich vorzutragen" über dem ersten Satz dieser (Franz Liszt gewidmeten) Komposition.

Wie im Booklet dieser Produktion enthält auch Burkard Schliessmanns neueste, ebenfalls bei Bayer Records erschienene CD mit Schumanns "Kreisleriana" op. 16 und den "Symphonischen Etüden" op. 13 beachtenswerte Kommentare des Pianisten zu den aufgenommenen Kompositionen, wobei die Gedanken über die Werke mit seiner durchdachten und geschmackvollen Spielweise übereinstimmen. Eine durch den ganzen Zyklus durchgehaltene Spannung und eine auch in den kontrastierenden Stimmungen einzelner Teile ausgewogene Interpretation charakterisiert insbesondere die "Symphonischen Etüden". Unbedingt empfehlenswert!
(Veronika A. Fáncsik)

Fono Forum - IV / 2000
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Profilierte Klangbilder

"Der Pianist Burkard Schliessmann wendet sich recht selbstbewusst gegen den "Mittelklasse- Akademismus" im Klavierspiel und erfüllt in seiner Aufnahme von zwei wesensverwandten Werken, die ihre Komponisten sich gegenseitig widmeten, bemerkenswert hohe Maßstäbe. Wagemutig und keineswegs zurückhaltend nähert er sich Schumanns Fantasie, in der er auf sinnfällige Art und Weise Stimmkorrespondenzen aufdeckt, in der er eine "Appassionata" mit wirklich bezwingendem Atem entdeckt. Dynamisch fein gezeichnet und beziehungsreich im Blick auf die Details gerät ihm die Liszt-Sonate. Der pianistischen Bravour dieses Stücks begegnet Schliessmann mit souveräner Kraft. Dass er sehr klare, profilierte Klangbilder entwirft, gehört unzweifelhaft zu seinen großen Stärken."
(Michael Stenger)

Pizzicato - II / 2000; Classic Highlights
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Brillantes Klavierspiel

"Schumanns Opus 17 und Franz Liszts Sonate h-moll erklingen auf dieser CD in packenden, dramatischen und brillanten Darbietungen des jungen deutschen Pianisten Burkard Schliessmann. Beeindruckend sind die Sogkraft, die den Hörer durch die Musik zieht und die Direktheit der Tonsprache, deren Extrovertiertheit sehr ehrlich wirkt, weil sie mit rauschhafter Leidenschaftlichkeit gepaart ist.

So äußert sich in der h-moll Sonate auch die Unbefangenheit Franz Liszts gegenüber der Religion, die der Komponist durchaus lebensnah sah und empfand und schwärmerisch nicht im meditativen Zwiegespräch zum Ausdruck brachte, sondern im hymnischen Höhenflug, für den Schliessmann in den Ruhephasen der Musik die Kraft regeneriert, um die manchmal atemberaubenden Höhepunkte anzusteuern.

So entpuppt sich die so extrovertiert klingende Sonate genau wie Schumanns Fantasie letzten Endes als hintergründiger als man das anfangs annehmen mag."

Piano - News - I / 2000
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" ... neue Einspielung, die aufhorchen läßt (Schumann & Liszt). Zum einen, da er bereits vor einigen Jahren die Schumannsche Fantasie C-Dur op. 17 einspielte, zum anderen aufgrund der faszinierenden Ausgeglichenheit und Tiefe der Deutung, die er nun an den Tag legt.
Die Schumannsche Fantasie deutet er als Tristan-Anlehnung des Dramatischen zwischen immenser Dynamik-Differenzierung und melodischen Anleihen von Todessehnsucht der Romantik. Damit liegt er auf dem richtigen Weg, findet zu einer tiefgründigen Sprache, die Schumanns Gedankengut wohl am nächsten kommt ..."

"Die Schumann zugedachte h-moll Sonate von Liszt gelingt ihm dem musikalischen Material entsprechend unwirsch und dramatisch, verbunden mit dem enormen Klangpotential, das Schliessmanns frühe Erfolge ausmachte. Dass er dabei ein enormes Emotions-Potential auszuschütten versteht, macht diese gesamte Einspielung zu einem Erlebnis ..."
(Carsten Dürer)

Aachener Nachrichten - December 9, 1999
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" ... Schliessmann geht ( ... ) an die Grenze dessen, was Musik ausdrücken kann. Denn sowohl Schumanns als auch Liszts Werke sind Virtuosenstücke. Sie sind melodische Schleiertänze ...
Schliessmann kann sich darin voll und ganz ausleben ... ."

Der Musikmarkt - MM 45 / 1999
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" ... Der deutsche Pianist Burkard Schliessmann ist als musikalischer Perfektionist stets auf der Suche nach dem Nonplusultra an klanglicher Schönheit und struktureller Konsequenz. In vorliegender Neuaufnahme (Schumann: Fantasie C-Dur op. 17 & Liszt: Sonate h-moll) nähert er sich der Substanz der beiden romantischen Kolossalwerke mit einer derartigen Intensität, die sich auf den Hörer überträgt. Ihm erschließen sich die auskomponierte Raserei der Schumann'schen Fantasie, der geradezu irrwitzige Bogen der Liszt'schen "Klaviersymphonie", die in den Noten verborgenen Kräfte zweier unerhörter Revolutionäre."

American Record Guide - July / August 1999
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"... Schliessmann is the best pianist I know at entering the world and expressing the awareness of the German romantics."

"... The Liszt Sonata was played with a strong and beautiful touch, with smooth, even runs. It was coherent but volatile, full of ardor and longing. This was one of the most satisfying performances of the Liszt I've ever heard ...". 
(Donald Vroon)

American Record Guide - January / February 1999
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" ... Mr Schliessmann never forgot tone. In fact, he regaled us with big, solid, rich tone for the whole concert. The Busoni can sound like a mere unraveling of notes, but this pianist strongly characterized each episode and yet managed to build everything to a satisfying conclusion.

Strong characterization also illumined the Handel Variations: the voices and variations were differentiated not only by tempo and dynamics, but also by touch and color. The variety was amazing, and these difficult variations became highly entertaining and enjoyable. The first and last variations were especially appealing ..."

" ... in the Schumann Symphonic Etudes things become passionate, and Mr Schliessmann is not afraid of passion. In fact, he throws himself into it. So there was plenty of emotional substance and the playing was involved and emphatic. In fact it was very Schumannesque, and this fiery performance matched the emotion in the music as no other I've ever heard. There was no floating here, no note-spinning. Never did it sound cold or objective. It was so sincere that you were swept up into the composer's world and mind. People would have found this performance an eye-opener ...".
(Donald Vroon)

Hessischer Rundfunk HR - October 15, 1995; "Schallplattenkonzert"
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"Schliessmann besitzt nicht nur bewundernswerte technische Fähigkeiten, einen stupenden Vorrat an rhetorischen Möglichkeiten, sondern auch so etwas wie künstlerische Integrität und moralische Unbedingtheit."

"Schliessmann beherrscht wie nur wenige Pianisten das permanente Rubato der Schumannschen Klavierperiode. Alles ist im Fluß, "ein ganz besonderer specieller Seelenzustand bildet", so sagte doch Schumann selbst, "den alleinigen Inhalt des Tonstücks; kleinere Compositionen verschiedenen Charakters werden aneinandergereiht, ein poetischer Gedanke bildet den Faden, und der technische Zusammenhang tritt zurück". Und hier nun führt Schliessmann eine Doppeldeutigkeit ins Feld, die, wie ich finde, sowohl originell ist als auch durchaus dem Schumannschen Gedanken entspricht. Wo seine Pianistenkollegen beispielsweise alles marschmäßig Ragende versteifen und aus dem Fluß des poetischen Gedankens herausheben, da wartet dieser Schliessmann doch mit der Überraschung auf, keinen einzigen Abschnitt, keine einzige Charakterisierung so zu wiederholen, wie man es gemeinhin erwartet. Das heißt: Er erzeugt großflächige Spannungen, die sich weniger aufs Einzelne konzentrieren, sondern vielmehr sich wie ein Netz übers Große und Ganze legen. Hinter solcher Spielauffassung verbirgt sich Verstand, und diesen hat Schumann ja immer höher eingeschätzt als die Willkür des Gefühligen."
(Manfred Karallus)

American Record Guide - May / June 1995
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"...Schliessmann’s playing is attractive in the Schumann-Fantasy, especially in I, where he achieves a nice rhapsodic feeling. This version is worth a hearing."
(Edward Hawkins)

"KuLiMu", Zeitschrift für Kunst, Literatur und Musik - II / 95
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"Der Pianist Burkard Schliessmann ist ein erstaunliches Talent. Jüngst noch im Fernsehen zu erleben, hört man ihn auf dieser CD mit Schumanns Fantasie op. 17 sowie der Spätfassung der Symphonischen Etüden op. 13.

In der Fantasie dominiert Leidenschaft und Übersicht. Den weiteren Taten dieses Interpreten empfehle ich erhöhte Aufmerksamkeit."

Deutsche Welle - March 28, 1994
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"...Das Highlight der Kölner «KlassikKomm-Konzerte 1994» war das Recital mit dem Pianisten Burkard Schliessmann."

Hamburger Abendblatt
Junie 1,1995
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"...ES-Dur setzt bei seinen Produktionen auf die Zusammenarbeit mit gestandenen Künstlerpersönlichkeiten wie den Pianisten Burkard Schliessmann."

Der Musikmarkt - MM 2 / 1995
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"... die Interpretenliste von ES-Dur läßt mit bekannten Namen wie ... oder des Pianisten Burkard Schliessmann aufhorchen."

Neue Zürch'er Zeitung - March 14, 1994
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"... Begegnung mit einem Stern am Pianistenhimmel."

"...leidenschaftlich aufbrausende, dynamisch kontrastreich abgestufte Wiedergabe von Chopin's Etude c-moll op. 10 Nr. 12."

"Ein eindrucksvoller, von der Gegenwart in die Vergangenheit führender Klavierabend war damit verklungen. Burkard Schliessmann vertritt eine neue, junge Pianisten-Generation mit technisch perfektem Rüstzeug, enormen physischen Kräften und einem durchtrainierten Gedächtnis. Sein Spiel überrascht durch mutig entschlossenen Zugriff und schreckt keineswegs vor Härten zurück. Der Ton ist modulationsreich, oft cantabel, sein Gestalten reichhaltig in der Durchleuchtung polyphon durchwobener Sätze."
(Peter Escher)

ZDF aspekte - January 21, 1994
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"Alexander Scriabins Klavierwerke mit ihren schwebend schwelgenden Passagen haben in Burkard Schliessmann einen originellen Interpreten gefunden."
(Manfred Eichel)

High Performance Review HPR - Summer 1993
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" ... In the Op. 116 Fantasies Schliessmann's approach concentrates the melodic lines by dilating the sense of time. Schliessmann shows that he has something in mind. The Intermezzo Op. 116 No. 2 invites the listener into a dream; there is a sense of spaciousness, of moving within another realm. The Intermezzi Op. 117 evoke desolation, and somehow, peace. Schliessmann's "Edward"-Ballade Op. 10 No. 1 rises from self-reflection to a carefully rendered climax that is massive, yet non-percussive. It's an impressive performance!"

"...the B-minor rhapsody is the most impetuous one has heard. It's close a "display" of virtuosity as one has seen from the German pianist ..."

"...Schliessmann captures the melancholy of Brahms' shifting modes, the flitting from light to shadow - the Op. 118 set is especially forlorn ..."

American Record Guide - July / August 1993
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".. playing that is thoughtful, technically excellent with a good control of tone and colour; there is a great deal of beautiful music on these discs."

Ostthüringer Zeitung - February 12, 1993
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"... mit Spätwerken von Johannes Brahms ist sein faszinierendes Spiel, sein impulsiver Zugriff auf diese Miniaturen zu erleben. Für sie hat Schliessmann die große Virtuosengebärde ebenso parat wie die Innerlichkeit des Musizierens. Sein Vortrag ist vital und voller Dynamik, gerät leicht und gelöst, lotet in die Tiefe und trifft den narrativen Balladenton. Die Aufnahmen bringen seine vielseitige, nervig-sensible Interpretationskunst ausgezeichnet zur Geltung."

Frankfurter Rundschau - December 1, 1992
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"... Sein Ziel, die Geistes- und Gedankenwelt des russischen Komponisten Alexander Scriabin anhand seiner Sonaten und Préludes (...) aufzuzeigen, verbunden mit der 'Fortführung' von Scriabins neu entwickelter Tonalität zur Zwölftontechnik in Alban Bergs Sonate op. 1, sowie die Rückbesinnung auf Werke, die Alexander Scriabin nachhaltig beeindruckten, wie Schumann's Symphonische Etüden op. 13 und die Ballade Nr. 4 von Frédéric Chopin, erreichte er in urpersonaler Ausformung.

Schliessmann reaktivierte Scriabins Geisteshaltung in einem konsequent entmaterialisierten Spiel, gipfelnd in selbstbewußter «Impérieux»-Geste oder in sensitiver Verflüchtigung einer alles verklärenden Zartheit. Was Arthur Lourié als «musikalischen Nebel»' bezeichnete, ergriff den Zuhörer in einem Gemisch aus flirrender Dichte und glitzernd fragiler Schwebung, überschattet von Melancholie, Düsternis und Schwermut, immer wieder aufgebrochen durch sich stetig von neuem aufbäumende Rubati, geradezu prometheisch-willensbetont intensiviert durch sich kraftvoll aufschwingende Thementypen, einheitlich miteinander verbunden durch geradezu schwindelerregende Virtuosität unter absoluter Wahrung minutiös ausgeformter Details.

Dies bestimmt die Meisterschaft des Pianisten Burkard Schliessmann, auf der Basis brillanter Technik und höchster Musikalität jeden Ton für sich zu beleben, zu dynamisieren (mit dem Anspruch scheinbarer Improvisation) und in unmittelbaren Zusammenhang mit der Intention des Komponisten in bisweilen jedoch äußerst extremer, ungewohnter, neuartiger, gar herausfordender Weise zu formulieren. So erlebte der Zuhörer anstelle der Sprödigkeit reibungsreicher Dodekaphonie (Alban Berg), anstelle einer einer meist nur einzig auf die eminent schwierige virtuose Technik des op. 13 (Schumann) ausgerichtete Interpretation der Symphonischen Etüden und anstelle einer pedalverschwommenen-verkitschten Chopin-Ballade die reinste Form eines romantisierten «Sturm und Drang»."
(Christiane Franke)

High Permormance Review HPR - Winter 1992
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"...Schliessmann plays the Brahms Sonata op. 5 with an eye towards late Brahms, competing less for your attention than for your interest. The drive of the finale's coda is thrilling, and the Scherzo gallops allong, and it is his playing of the slow movements that pulls you in. He makes the poco più lento a longorous barcarolle. Beautiful."

"...In the more academic Variations on a theme by Handel Schliessmann extracts humor and colour with his reading."

"...Schliessmann makes an excellent case for the more intimate alternative: structure subordinate to epiphany."
(Robert Joseph Sullivan)

Keyboards - 10 / 1992
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"...finden wir bei Schliessmann die Brahms-Deutung als privates Drama, als den Versuch eines 20jährigen Jungkomponisten, mit dem Leben zurechtzukommen. Um einige Details zu nennen: Die unterschwelligen erotischen Inhalte des langsamen zweiten Satzes nehmen bei Schliessmann geradezu verführerische Qualitäten an; im Scherzo entfaltet er brodelnde Walzer-Dämonie und geisterhaftes Schwirren; die Bedrohung der Beethovenschen «Tatata-taa»-Figur im vierten Satz ist beklemmend.

... Schliessmann spielt die thematische Zelle des ersten Aufschreis mit einer kleinen inneren Beschleunigung - ein Ausbruch fürchterlicher Leidenschaft..."

Rheinische Post - September 24, 1992
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"...Schliessmanns pianistischer Rang war schon zu Beginn bei Alban Bergs Sonate op. 1 zu erkennen: Er hatte den reichen, vielschichtigen Klaviersatz wirklich im Griff, manuell und mental; das Gewebe von Themen, Motiven und ihren feingesponnenen Übergängen erstand in einer reichen Palette von Nuancen, vollklingend und doch durchhörbar, stets ausgewogen und auch in den emphatischen Aufschwüngen bei aller Kraftentfaltung nie grob oder hart.

Die 16 ausgewählten Préludes aus 26 Jahren und die beiden Danses op. 73 spielte Schliessmann mit großer pianistischer Kompetenz. Er vertiefte sich fast bohrend in die verschlungenen Gänge von Scriabins Ausdruckswelten.

Sein Meisterstück lieferte Schliessmann dann mit Schumanns Symphonischen Etüden op. 13: Schon das Thema sehr differenziert; die plastisch konturierte Variation 1 spannungsvoll, durchaus biegsam im rhythmischen Detail; auf der Basis eines rund klingenden piano immer ein excellentes Verhältnis von Akkordspiel und singender Melodie und rasche dynamische Wechsel ohne Gewalttätigkeit. Das Finale kam unverkrampft präzise mit unverminderter Kraft und staunenswertem Feingefühl zugleich. Reicher Beifall - so gut war Schumann selten zu hören."  

Westdeutsche Zeitung - September 23, 1992
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"Schliessmann zeichnete sich besonders durch seine feinfühlige Art der Interpretation und eine brillante Technik aus. Trotz schwieriger Passagen verstand er es, neben einer hervorragenden Akzentuierung die Finger über die Tasten gleiten zu lassen, so daß die Zuhörer über solch eine Leichtigkeit nur in Staunen versetzt werden konnten." 

Südwest Presse
- September 7, 1992
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"... Seine leidenschaftliche, konsequente Interpretation verlangt vom Hörer eine Anteilnahme, die mitunter ins Bekenntnishafte hinaufreicht." 

Disc - 9 / 92
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"... furiose Technik der Händel-Variationen...Subtilität des Anschlags...Mut, die scheinbar so vertrauten Werke gegen den Strich zu bürsten...Darstellung jener kleinen und mächtigen Energiefelder, aus denen zum Beispiel der ganze erste Satz der f-moll Sonate sich entfaltet - diese kurzen, bis zum Zerreißen aufgeladenen Motive, deren Ausführung man gern subjektiv nennen kann. Das Ergebnis ist ein Brahms, den man nicht alle Tage hört."  

Fono Forum - IV / 91
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"...Die musikalischen Strukturen erscheinen plastisch und durchgehört..."  
(Till Janczukowicz)

PIANO - forte - III / 91
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"...ihm scheinen die Geheimnisse eines klingenden Universums, der tönenden Sphären in den allerkleinsten Motiven, ja im Ton an sich nicht mehr verborgen. So jedenfalls stellt sich sein Scriabin vom ersten Takt der dritten Sonate dar: als ein Aufbruch, der seine Initialzündung sozusagen aus dem ersten Schritt von der Stille zum Klang, nicht erst aus den Anfangsakkorden bezieht. Dementsprechend hört er immer wieder tief hinein in die verborgenen Spannungselemente...die Musik scheint sich aus sich selbst heraus zu erschaffen und vergeht zeitlos...

Wer Schliessmanns Scriabin-Spiel bewußt in sich aufnimmt (es ist nichts, was man so nebenher schallern lassen kann) - wer also die Bereitschaft aufbringt, mit dem Interpreten ganz in diese Mikrokosmen einzutauchen, gewinnt etwas hinzu, das ich als Verständnis für die Wurzel musikalischer Grundvorgänge bezeichnen möchte...

...Schliessmann jedenfalls geht davon aus, daß der Moment Ewigkeit ist und mehr Kraft in sich birgt als so manche «leckere» Phrase.

Das Wort Alternative hat hier eine Dimension, die niemand versäumen sollte, wenn er es mit der Musik Scriabins ernst meint..."  

Hamburger Abendblatt - November 8, 1991 (Konzert Hamburger Musikhalle)
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"...überzeugendes Debut..."

"...der junge Künstler...konnte tatsächlich faszinieren."

"In Regers Bach-Variationen fühlte er sich sofort zuhause, bewies eine irrwitzige Technik, verwuchs praktisch mit dem Flügel und zeigte unverkennbar Profil."

"Mit fast sensationell zu nennenden Einfällen würzte er Busonis «Carmen»-Sonatine, und Brahms Händel-Variationen verbanden souveräne pianistische Meisterschaft mit einer durchdachten, fesselnden Deutung. Viel Applaus."  

Hamburger Morgenpost - November 8, 1991 (Konzert Hamburger Musikhalle)
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"Erfolgreiches Hamburg-Debut ... effektvolles Spiel ... Viel Beifall."

"...zeigte er live ähnliche Qualitäten wie auf seiner jüngsten Aufnahme aus der Friedrich-Ebert-Halle (wo er derzeit eine Brahms-Gesamtaufnahme einspielt.")

"...schon im Adagio ließ Schliessmann neben abwechslungsreichem Mienenspiel jene Klangintensität spüren, die Regers Bach-Variationen dann zum Höhepunkt der ersten Halbzeit werden ließ."

"...Schliessmann fand bei «seinem» Brahms und dessen Händel-Variationen samt zugegebener h-moll Rhapsodie sein musikalisches Zuhause."  
(Martin Brinkmann)

High Performance Review HPR - Fall 1991
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"...this is the most imaginative playing one has heard yet - on the level of Richter, Michelangeli, Wild, Gould - the highest order of artistry."

"Schliessmann rates an astounding musician, one who could approach the legends of Gieseking and Serkin..."

"...Schliessmann's playing is riveting..."

"His concentration seems so involving...he never lets you go..."

"With each listening you discover new nuances in sequences of notes. This is the true worth of his art, far outstripping his ability to produce huge volumes of sound by sheer technique."

"Beyond the presence and the inherent drama of the Schliessmann approach, it is hard to single out any aspect of his playing as the lodestone of his appeal. With a pianist like Gould we can instantly focus on the unique secco touch and contrapuntal genius. Schliessmann, despite the hot temperament evident here, gives the impression that his technique can stretch to fit anything his astonishing intellect can conceive... . The devine synthesis Scriabin sought, the simultaneous coincidence of the individual conscience and the life of the world, is achieved here in great mesure." 
(Robert Joseph Sullivan)

American Record Guide - May / June 1991
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"Displaying more sensitivity and polish than many other Scriabin interpreters, Schliessmann (who plays a rich-toned German STEINWAY) reveals an acute awareness of both the lyric and the dramatic elements in the various pieces offered." 
(Donald Manildi)

R É P E R T O I R E - Février 1991
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"...Schliessmann's maîtrise certes les difficultés techniques..."

"...dans des formes plus menues comme les préludes qui jalonnent toute la carrière du compositeur de 1893 à 1914, et ont bien peu connu les honneurs du CD, Schliessmann possède un sens remarquable du coup de griffe, de la miniature, de la concision. Les Danses op. 73 il joue avec un art moins sobre, avec un piano plus épais, qui rappelle à chaque instant combien Scriabine a voulu travailler une pâte sonore chargée."

"...ce CD peut constituer une bonne introduction ... à cet univers complexe. Et pour l'amateur averti, il offre tout de même suffisamment d'inédits pour être plein d'intérêt." 
(Jaques Bonnaure)

Der Musikmarkt - MM 23 / 90
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"... strebt bei seinen Einspielungen nicht nur eine eigene musikalische Aussage im Detail an - er möchte jede seiner Produktionen als eine eigenständige interpretatorische Gesamtäußerung verstanden wissen. Als Spiegel seiner eigenen intensiven Beschäftigung soll sie zu ebenso tiefgehen dem Nachvollzug durch mehrmaliges Hören einladen." 

Hessischer Rundfunk HR - December 19, 1990; "Schallplattenkonzert"
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"Diese breite und intensive Auseinandersetzung mit dem Klavierschaffen Alexander Scriabins durch alle Phasen - sie kommt den Interpretationen auch zugute. Schliessmann scheint da doch oft die frühen Werke im Spiegel der späten pianistisch auszudeuten und sie werden dadurch filigraner, durchsichtiger strukturiert; und der umgekehrte Vorgang, er gilt dann für die späten, die so progressiven, aus aller Tonalität fast ausscherenden, Stücke. Die interpretatorischen Finessen, sie sind im winzigsten Detail zu suchen, in den dynamischen Schattierungen, und da bietet diese CD "einiges" davon."

"Mit sehr viel dynamischer Delikatesse geht Schliessmann hier an dieses vielschichtige, arabeske Gefirk. Er nimmt die Spielanweisungen ernst, avec une grâce languissante für die «Guirlandes», und für den zweiten Tanz, die «Flammes sombres», avec une grâce dolente."  
(Dr. Manfred Dahmer)

ZDF - München / Mainz - "ERSTKLASSISCH!" - December 2, 1990
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"Einen hochintelligenten Einstieg in das Klavierwerk Alexander Scriabins liefert der Pianist Burkard Schliessmann mit einer mustergültigen Einspielung."  
(Friedrich Müller)

Frankfurter Rundschau - December 30, 1989
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"... Gefühl für ökonomische Proportionen, Streben nach unprätentiösem und dennoch vollgriffigem Pathos oder auch wachem Sichvertiefen ins Grüblerische und schlicht Sangliche kleiner Motivformen."

"... an entsprechend kräftemäßigen Vorprogrammierungen fehlt es ihm natürlich nicht."

"Seine Beethoven- und Brahms-Interpretationen treffen sich sozusagen über Beethovens Variationensatz, Prüfstein einer schon Schliessmann-typischen, mehr intellektuellen und klangsinnlichen Romantik, die sich mit der Brahmsschen Überlegtheit und Überlegenheit vortrefflich paart."  
(Peter Friedrich Pfaffe)

American Record Guide - September / October 1989
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"...those of us who have Curzon or Rubinstein or even Katchen are doing the best. If however, that Curzon or Katchen or Rubinstein LP is tired - or you are tired of it - you might try Herr Schliessmann for a fresh and youthful (and very romantic) look at it. The playing is powerful yet sensitive, and the sound is so vivid and solid it makes Curzon sound like he is two blocks away." 
(Donald Vroon)

FAZ - Frankfurter Allgemeine American Record Guide - July 4, 1989 (Konzert Alte Oper  Frankfurt)
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"Beethovens Sonate op. 10 Nr. 3 nahm der Pianist förmlich im Sturm. Der harte Zugriff, der in Klangwirbeln und treibender Motorik den furiosen Charakter des Prestos herausstellte, überzeugte schließlich auch im Largo, vor allem im Menuetto. Schliessmann beugte hier mit kantiger Interpretation der Süßlichkeit lyrischer Passagen vor, die Beethoven selbst durch dissonante Momente entlarvte."

"Bei Brahms Fantasien op. 116 überraschte Schliessmann besonders in den elegischen Intermezzi durch zarte Zeichnung impressionistisch anmutender Skizzen, weiche Klangfärbung und subtile dynamische Abstufungen."

"Bei Busonis Sonatina seconda gelang Schliessmann eine souverän strukturierende Interpretation, Transparenz im Klanggewirr und Betonung der tragenden Baßrolle."

"Mit geschärften pianistischen Sinnen beschloß Schliessmann das Programm: Im dramatisch akzentuierten ersten Satz von Scriabins Sonate Nr. 3 in fis-moll op. 23 kamen kleinste lyrisch nachempfundene Passagen, Feinheiten in der Phrasierung, drängende Baßfiguren zu ihrem Recht; filigran geriet vor allem das langsam in sich verdichtende Klangnetz im Allegretto. Nach fast symphonisch wuchtiger Steigerung ein abrupter Schluß - drei Zugaben."  

Frankfurter Rundschau - July 6, 1989 (Konzert Alte Oper Frankfurt)
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"... über welch stupende Technik er verfügt, die vor komplizierten Fingersätzen nicht zurückzuschrecken braucht, bewies er eingangs mit Beethovens Sonate D-Dur op. 10 Nr. 3. Vehement sprudelnd arbeitete Schliessmann die kontrastierenden Phrasen und Stimmungen des ersten Satzes heraus. Plakativ und sehr wirkungsvoll legte der Musiker die dramatischen Effekte an, zu denen auch der ausgekostete Wechsel von glasklar gespielten Linien zu kompakten Staccati gehörte. Seinen gewissen Pragmatismus verlor Schliessmann auch nicht in dem düsteren zweiten Satz. Aber nicht nur hier verwandelten sich transzendente Klangwelten in recht irdische Gefilde, in denen technisches Know-How zählt."

"In Brahms Fantasien op. 116 gelang Schliessmann eine Interpretation, bei der sich die Spannung eines "inneren Monologs" nach außen übertrug. Völlig in die Musik versunken, kostete er jedes Detail, jede Reibung und neu auftauchende musikalische Figur aus." 
(Sigrid Olschewski)

Frankfurter Neue Presse - July 4, 1989 (Konzert Alte Oper Frankfurt)
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"Eine über zwei Stunden gespannte Konzentration und vollkommene Versenkung in das jeweilige Werk ermöglichten Schliessmann einen Vortrag, der in seiner espressiven Dichte und seiner rhythmischen Kraft von geradezu unerbittlicher Ernsthaftigkeit war. Immer wieder setzte er bei seinem kontrastreichen Spiel neue Energien frei, die kein Loslassen erlaubten. Drei Zugaben." 
(Michael Dellith)

Gina Bachauer Festival - Salt Lake City, USA, 1988
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"...a pianist with excellent artistry." 
(Paul Pollei)

Piano Festival Maryland - Washington, USA, 1988
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"Schliessmann is a fine, extraordinary gifted pianist and one with much promise." 
(Donald Reinhold)

Hessischer Rundfunk HR - April 29, 1988; "Schallplatte des Tages"
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"Ein velversprechendes pianistisches Talent kündigt sich da an. In den knapp zweieinhalb Minuten von Scriabins Etude op. 8 Nr. 12 in dis-moll sind musikalische Konzentration mit außerordentlichen spieltechnischen Schwierigkeiten verbunden und Burkard Schliessmann meistert beides höchst brillant."

"Im zweiten Satz von Beethovens Sonate op. 109 wird Schliessmann sowohl dem zartverinnerlichten Wesen des Themas gerecht wie er auch mit dem angemessenen Enthusiasmus die emphatische Ekstase auskostet, die vor der Wiederholung des singenden Themas ausbrechen darf."  
(Dr. Manfred Dahmer)

Frankfurter Rundschau - 1988 - 1990
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"Als einen großen Gestalter von Musik ganz unterschiedlicher Stile kann man den Pianisten sehr wohl bezeichnen."

"Was bei ihm auf Anhieb fesselt, ist die Bandbreite seiner Dynamik: Vom zartgesungenen Pianissimo reicht sie bis zu einem raumfüllenden Fortissimo. Ein anderes Merkmal von Schliessmanns Spiel ist sein raffinierter und souveräner Umgang mit Pedal und Klang." (3.5.88)

"Da ist alles überaus sorgfältig durchdacht und erarbeitet, da herrscht in der überlegenen Anwendung der Agogik jene für den Komponisten Brahms typische, eigenwillige Nachdenklichkeit vor, die dem Interpreten ebenso liegt." (28.12.88)

"... bestätigte sich die außerordentliche Arbeit des sich Hinein-Versenkens in die Musik, die den Pianisten auszeichnet."

"... der förmlich verhauchende Schluß der Berg-Sonate war ein Genuß für sich."

"Die Sforzati, die Übergreifer, der melodische und agogische Reichtum, der "Dialog" zwischen der Rechten und der Linken, die knappe Pedalisierung - da stimmte alles."

"... Beethoven in Reinkultur."

"... beim letzten Capriccio aus Brahms Fantasien op. 116 demonstrierte er ein Agitato-Spiel wie aus dem Lehrbuch."" (3.5.89)

"Er könnte «der» Brahms Spieler werden." (30.3.90) 
(Joachim Stiehr)

Audio Magazin - IV / 1988
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"Mit Bewältigung dieses Meisterprogramms können Burkard Schliessmann und seine Freunde sehr zufrieden sein. Mit seinem kraftvollen und konzentrierten Spiel präsentiert sich Schliessmann als ernstzunehmendes Nachwuchstalent."  
(Friedhelm Nierhaus)

Hifi - Vision - II / 1988
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"Mit wohldosiertem Programm gelingt dem Pianisten Burkard Schliessmann ein lobenswertes Plattendebut. Seine Lehrjahre am Piano tragen ganz offensichtlich reichhaltige Früchte: Schliessmann entpuppt sich als begnadeter Virtuose, dem auch schwierigste Passagen locker von der Hand gehen." 
(Reinmar Emans)