headshot1Atzinger is blessed with abundant energy, powerful fingers, a big sound and natural musicality. He makes the best possible case for Gregory Fritze’s well made 1989 Sonata, moulding the jagged, proclamatory unison motifs and full-throated chords in contrary motion with immense authority, taking great care with the slow movement’s inside-the-piano strumming and plucking. Atzinger more than holds his own against the Barber Sonata’s finest recorded practitioners (Horowitz, Cliburn, Browning and Wild) and benefits from MSR’s warm, roomy and most attractive engineering.

Atzinger penetrates beyond the exterior of lovelorn loneliness that stands as a facade to much of Brahms’s music, finding on a deeper level something not quite so sympathetic or easy to relate to, a kind of distancing from the world of the living. This is exceptionally beautiful playing and these are exceptionally insightful performances.

The Barber Sonata seems to be an Atzinger calling-card, with its high-flown, percussive lyricism. Atzinger bestows upon the opening Allegro energico the same taut, hard-edged patina we know from the Horowitz and Browning versions. The second movement Scherzo might be Barber’s equivalent of a Liszt etude, according to Atzinger’s playful fingers. The Adagio brings out Barber’s concession to ‘modernism’ and Schoenberg, but it retains a bluesy, American character. The fugal last movement has Atzinger in molten form, providing ardent, scintillating evidence of his technical and sympathetic commitment to this music.

The two large pieces on this disc [Zaimont Sonata; A Calendar Set], played with fervency and panache by pianist Christopher Atzinger, provide a glimpse of both her monumental vein and her more intimate voice – and both are compelling.

Christopher Atzinger proves to be an excellent pianist…

In Christopher Atzinger’s Brahms disc the two-piano Haydn Variations breaks the Indian Summer reverie of the late Opp. 116 and 117 piano pieces – the latter presented as ‘lullabies of all my grief’, as Brahms insisted, with their scale and inwardness beautifully judged by Atzinger. In Op. 116 he nails the nobility of the G minor Capriccio’s central section, and is light on his feet for the E minor Intermezzo’s mercurial playfulness.

[Schubert’s Sonata in B-flat Major] is bellowed less for its technical arrangement than for the festive, gently hymn-like feeling it projects. This was brought across masterfully by Christopher Atzinger with an aesthetically rich performance. He unlocked the thematic richness of the first movement, gave the andante sostenuto an introverted, song-like treatment, and lent ‘delicacy’ to the scherzo. The rondo of the final movement was charged, stirring.

Atzinger proves himself to be a master of the fugue in his debut recital. Beginning with Bach, the original and supreme master of the fugue, then progressing through late Beethoven to arrive at the brilliant final movement of the Barber sonata, we are treated to a great overview of this form. There are no weak movements, only wonderful music-making. Christopher Atzinger is surely a pianist to keep a watch for.

Soloist Christopher Atzinger gave the work [Barber Piano Concerto, Op. 38] a marvelous ride. He projected a thorough mastery of its numerous Himalayan hurdles, his hands blurring over the keyboard, churning out fusillades of octaves and parallel sixths in the craggy “Allegro appassionato’ and galloping ‘Allegro molto’ movements, caressing the ivories in the melancholy traceries of the central ‘Canzone’.
– THE REPUBLICAN (Springfield, MA)

Technique and intellect also shone through in Atzinger’s playing – along with his commitment to contemporary and modern repertoire. With virtuoso aplomb, Atzinger negotiated the technical hurdles and spiky harmonies of Barber’s maze – and found the American vernacular at its heart.

Atzinger is an impressive technician with a highly personal style and a clear engagement with the music he is playing.

The first is an uncommonly fine release. Late Brahms piano pieces are intricate, sometimes difficult works, so I like to follow them with a score. With the music in front of me I was doubly aware of the hundreds, no thousands of little rhythmic adjustments-agogic accents, rubato, and the like-that Atzinger brings to the music. He has fantastic control of rhythm in his shaping of phrases, and his ability to bring a hidden melody to the foreground is exemplary. All the pieces are paced very well, and the piano sound is excellent. Atzinger is a pianist to watch.