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Poetic Piano Sonatas
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No.21 in C major, Op.53 Waldstein (1804) [23:42]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1839)
Piano Sonata No.2 in B flat minor, Op.35 (1839) [25:28]
Bela BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Piano Sonata, Sz80 (1926) [13:03]
Olga Jegunova (piano)
rec. January, April and May 2015, Henry Wood Hall, London
MUSIC & MEDIA MMC114 [62:15]

There’s a cultural cross-pollination at work in this disc which embodies music and poetry. The poetry – the poems are printed in full in the booklet – is linked to the music of Beethoven, Chopin and Bartók. The first is Goethe’s May Song, the second Pasternak’s 1956 Music – which does cite Chopin as well as Tchaikovsky by name – whilst the third is a contemporary poem called There was for dread the scaled, tall-tailed girl who danced behind locked doors. This deliberate mouthful was written by Abigail Parry in 2016 especially for this project and represents the Bartókian element in the programming. How far this matters is up to the listener, but I think it best falls into the freely associative end of things. I’m here to review the music.

Young pianist Olga Jegunova, who confesses she is inspired, as she should be, by poetry, choreography and indeed all the arts, has selected three sonatas spanning different time periods and geographical borders. She is a clean, musical player whose unexaggerated, focused approach pays dividends. Her Chopin sonata is technically efficient and thoroughly engaging. Maybe she employs too much rubato in the opening movement – I find she slows down rather too overtly – but she phrases very sympathetically in the B section of the Scherzo and there are no extremes in the Funeral March. This is scaled, refined playing – calm, fluent and architecturally secure.

Her Waldstein sonata has clarity and sufficient urgency coupled with fine precision captured with suitable clarity in the Henry Wood Hall in London She catches that strange sense of dislocation in the central movement, albeit doesn’t plumb the depths as a Schnabel or a Backhaus can. There’s plenty of temperament to be heard in her up-to-tempo finale; her stalking left hand figures are especially good.

The third sonata is the least well-known - Bartók’s 1926 work in three movements. Rhythmically vivid and engaging she plays with considerable vitality. It’s only when one turns to an old-timer like György Sándor that one encounters a more incisive and varied colouristic palette and rhythmic demarcations. Still, Jegunova gives a fine account of herself, though her repeated phrases in the central movement sound rather dull in comparison with the alive, prismically voiced Sándor. Her tone remains somewhat thicker and richer in the finale which means it’s a mite less mobile and folklorically inflected than Sándor’s more coolly percussive and outdoorsy playing. Still, this newcomer is certainly individual and personable.

This is a good calling card for Jegunova.

Jonathan Woolf



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