Autumn Songs
Youri Egorov (piano)
rec. live 1974-1987
Track-listing below
ET'CETERA KTC1520 [59:16 + 64:23]

This is the second release of live recordings made by Youri Egorov (1954-1988) to come my way of late. I recently reviewed this Russian pianist's April 1980 recital from the Ambassador Auditorium, Pasadena, California put out by First Hand Records (review).

In 1975 Egorov came to the West, obtained a work permit and settled in Amsterdam. There he came to the attention of Hans Kerkhoff who, impressed by the pianist’s efforts at the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1974, invited him to perform in Amsterdam and Hilversum in the studios of the Vara network. In 2013, Et’cetera released a 10 CD set + DVD entitled "Youri Egorov – A Life in Music" featuring some of these performances. With many more languishing in the vaults of Amsterdam Radio, the Dutch label has released this 2 CD set to complement the first. I’m grateful to Piet Tullenaar, a retired radio archivist, who has compiled this latest offering, and has contributed the excellent accompanying liner-notes.

In the selection of eight sonatas by Scarlatti, most are familiar, with a couple of less well-known ones thrown in for good measure. Although composed for the harpsichord, I prefer them played on the modern concert grand. Egorov proves himself temperamentally suited to the task, mobilizing all his pianistic resources. Sensitive pedalling is judiciously applied in the achievement of colour. A dazzling technique makes its mark when called for, as in the G major, K125. The performances are both idiomatic and convey the emotional breadth of these imaginatively constructed works. The well-worn B minor, K87 has profound nobility, though perhaps lacking the pathos of some performances I’ve heard.

Brahms described his three Intermezzi, Op. 117 to his friend Rudolf von der Leyen as "three lullabies for my sorrows", and Egorov’s performances from 1983 capture the intimacy, introspection and autumnal quality of these late pieces. In the first he finely chisels the melody above some delicately voiced chords. In the second, I’m impressed by his deft handling of the falling arpeggios as they drift through a succession of tonalities.

The performance of Ravel’s Miroirs from 1987 takes some beating. The scintillating dexterity of Noctuelles with its diaphanous cascading notes is all the better for the clarity and definition the pianist brings to it, with the chorale-like section having a haunted quality. Une Barque sur l'Océan is bathed in an impressionistic haze, raptly intense and rhythmically pliant. The lusty, exuberant Alborada del Grazioso has personality and panache.

In the terse Piano Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 28 by Prokofiev, Egorov negotiates its contoured narrative with insight and skill. High on passion and drama, the performance has plenty of energy and power. The more quiet and lyrical section, midway through, is luminous and beguiling. The Bartók Piano Suite is bold, striking and rhythmically propulsive.

Two airings of Autumn Song from The Seasons, Op. 37a, no. 10 in D minor October more or less bookend the collection. The first is from 1974, the second from 1987. Egorov instils the piece with wistfulness and melancholy, and in the later version its plaintive chant has added poignancy as the pianist had only another year to live.

All of these radio broadcasts are clear and bright. Audience presence can be detected in the occasional bronchial contribution and applause is retained. What attracts me to this set is the wide range of repertoire on offer. Piet Tullenaar says in his essay: "I have tried to display as many facets of his musical artistry as possible in this compilation." He has succeeded admirably.

Stephen Greenbank
CD 1 [59:16]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Theme and Variations (No. 6 from Morceaux (6), Op. 19 [11:50]
'Autumn Song' from The Seasons, Op. 37a, no. 10 in D minor [5:23]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Prelude and Fugue for piano, Op. 87 No. 3 in G major [3:57]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Grande Étude de Paganini, S. 141 No. 3 'La Campanella' [4:55]
Belá BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Piano Suite, BB 70, Sz. 62, Op. 1 [9:46]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Intermezzo in E flat major, Op. 117 No. 1 [4:34]
Intermezzo in B flat minor, Op. 117 No. 2 [4:14
Intermezzo in C sharp minor, Op. 117 No. 3 [5:52]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Piano Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 28 [8:41]

CD 2 [64:23]
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Keyboard Sonatas (selection) [30:39]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Miroirs, five pieces for piano [27:56]
'Autumn Song' from The Seasons, Op. 37a, no. 10 in D minor [5:40]

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