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Piano sonata no.2 in B flat minor, op.36 [19:36] Sofia GUBAIDULINA (b. 1931)
Chaconne [9:17] Nikolay MEDTNER (1880-1951)
Sonata ‘Reminiscenza’ in A minor, op.38 no.1 [14:44] Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Piano sonata no.7 in B flat major, op.83 [17:47]
Anna Vinnitskaya (piano)
rec. Studio de la Fondation Tibor Varga, Sion, Switzerland, June 2008.
NAÏVE AMBROISIE AM 177 [61:46]
This debut recording by the young Russian pianist Anna Vinnitskaya is a tour de force. The mixed all-Russian programme has been skilfully selected to emphasise her strengths, not least of which are her disciplined approach to interpretation and her masterly control of form, timbre and dynamic gradation. The danger of this level of intellectual control is that performances can become cold and calculated, but Vinnitskaya also has a deeply expressive side, and knows just when to bring this into the mix. Although there are a few moments on the disc where the playing is slightly impersonal, the overall impression is of an accomplished performer whose musical maturity belies her young age.
The programme opens with Rachmaninov’s Second Sonata. Vinnitskaya opts for the shorter revised version, although the liner-notes - which are not by her - attempt to close down any discussion about its relative merits, describing it as the ‘definitive version that is adopted nowadays’. Vinnitskaya’s approach suits the increased sectionality of Rachmaninov’s revised score, and she is able to create continuity across the often abrupt time-changes through meticulous planning of the tempo relationships. Her considered approach is evident from the first bars, which are steady and deliberate. It soon becomes clear why she is holding back though, as the pacing of the following passages allows Rachmaninov’s volcanic climaxes a logical sense of context, with each gradual build-up both anticipated and executed to perfection. The second movement is also taken at a fairly steady pace. Discipline remains the overriding impression, and it is here that the first suspicions of coldness creep in. It is only ever borderline though, and the performance of the movement succeeds through the balance of Rachmaninov’s excesses and Vinnitskaya’s
A different relationship between composer and performer governs
the performance of Gubaidulina’s early Chaconne. This is another
very intellectual reading, but of a work that really benefits
from interpretive discipline. The heavy chords with which the
work opens are of a piece with the preceding Rachmaninov, but
the following passages are of a more austere Modernist bent.
The music is based on mechanical, motoric figurations, but
gradually builds to a shattering climax. Vinnitskaya is able
to demonstrate both the precision and the control of her technique
through these textures, and also her acute sense of pacing
in the gradual accretion of the music towards its conclusion.
It is an unusual work for a debut disc, but it is clear why
it was chosen for this one.
Medner’s ‘Reminiscenza’ Sonata is a less obvious contender.
It is a marked contrast to the other works on the disc, and
it is presumably included to add variety. Vinnitskaya gives
the work its due, finding more musical interest in the score
than many would manage. But for all that, the piece is little
more than an extended interlude in an otherwise intense programme.
And most intense of all is the Prokofiev Seventh Sonata that
closes the disc. It is a testament to both Vinnitskaya’s prodigious
technique and her confidence that her debut disc includes two
of the most fearsome challenges of the 20th century
Russian repertoire. It hardly needs saying that her technique
is more than adequate, even for Prokofiev’s monumental challenges.
She achieves an impressive, almost schizophrenic, duality in
the first movement between the sprightly figurations and the
imposing, dense chordal figurations. The second movement again
ventures closer to dispassionate austerity than most pianists
would dare, even in Prokofiev. But her ability to combine controlled
pacing with intense flowing energy makes her reading of the
finale a serious contender, even by comparison with her esteemed
compatriots of previous generations.
All in all, this is an impressive debut CD. Anna Vinnitskaya comes across not only as an extraordinarily talented performer, but also as a distinctive musical voice. Her performances of each of these works are real interpretations, and she achieves impressive musical communication. Control, both of expression and of technique, is clearly going to characterise her performing career, but on the evidence of this recording, she also knows when to let go and allow the piano to sing.
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