It is extraordinary that this coupling never seems to have been made before. There are some 80 versions of the Liszt B minor Sonata (1853) in the catalogue at the moment, and only five of the Reubke Sonata in B flat minor (1857). Reubke had been recommended to study with Liszt by Hans von Bülow and he clearly made a very favourable impression before his untimely death at the age of only 24. Just as his better-known Organ Sonata betrays the influence of Liszt, so too does his Piano Sonata, which ingeniously combines sonata form with a four-movement structure as does Liszt in his Piano Sonata (from which Reubke even appears to quote). Pianistically it shows a similar diversity of ideas and an astonishing fecundity of invention: this is most certainly the work of a master and not just a pupil. The harmonic language is in many ways more advanced and more unstable than Liszt’s the full and rich sonorities (particularly in the rather hymnal middle section) are remarkable, and the only weak link might be the final major-key apotheosis.
The young British pianist Anthony Hewitt puts himself firmly on the map with this coupling (although here again top prize at the Willam Kapell Competition in 1992 was in fact joint second place, no top prize being awarded). As regards the Liszt, clearly this is an immensely crowded market-place, and of recent recordings I cannot recommend too highly David Wilde’s thought-provoking account on Delphian with a similarly challenging coupling of Busoni’s Elegies . Hewitt’s Liszt is occasionally lacking in intensity and momentum but I would certainly recommend this disc wholeheartedly for the Reubke, which receives a magisterial performance. He performs it with absolute conviction and a real sense of inexorable drive, as if it is as organic and unified as Liszt’s masterpiece. The recorded sound is excellent and Hewitt provides his own thoroughly researched booklet notes.