This is the first time I have encountered the playing of Vladimir
Feltsman. I was quite amazed to see that he has mustered a considerable
roster of recordings on Nimbus, with a discography encompassing music
from baroque to twentieth-century, embracing composers such as Bach,
Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninov. The list goes on.
Born in Moscow in 1952, he made his debut with the Moscow Philharmonic
at the age of eleven. Piano studies were with Jacob Flier at the Moscow
Tchaikovsky State Conservatory of Music. He also studied conducting.
In 1987, he emigrated to the United States, where he now lives as
an American citizen. A large portion of his time is taken up with
Feltsman has here chosen a selection of the mature Haydn sonatas.
He composed his piano sonatas between 1750 and 1795. The influences
for these compositions were George Chrisoph Wagenseil and later C.P.E.
Bach. Together with the symphonies and the string quartets, the piano
sonatas were a crucial factor in the development of the sonata-form
in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Listening to these two CDs, I could not but marvel at Haydn’s
craftsmanship and inventive mind. Feltsman really gets under the skin
of these works and delivers idiomatic and well-characterised renditions.
Precision, stylish phrasing and responsive control of dynamics are
the hallmarks, and the performances do not disappoint. The wit, humour
and energy in the Rondo of the C major sonata is emphasized and thrown
off by Feltsman with tremendous élan. On the reverse of the
coin, the underlying melancholy and pathos of the opening movement
of the C minor has echoes of Sturm und Drang. The 12 Variations
in E flat are a delight. It is interesting to note, as Feltsman points
out in his notes, that Mozart was so taken by this theme that he modified
it and used it as the main theme of his E flat major piano sonata
The piano sound in these recordings is warm and resonant. Clarity
and definition are first rate. Documentation by Feltsman himself is
illuminating. I would now like to explore Feltsman’s other albums
on the back of these.