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Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Piano Sonata No. 6, Op. 82 (1940) [28.46]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Gaspard de la nuit (1908) [22.35]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
10 pieces selected from 13 Pieces for piano, Op. 76 (1911/1919) [13.34]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Piano Sonata, Sz. 80 (1926) [12.56]
Lika Bibileishvili (piano)
rec. 2017, Kupferhaus Planegg, Munich
FARAO CLASSICS B108099 [78.10]

This debut album from pianist Lika Bibileishvili containing a splendidly performed collection of 20th century works by Prokofiev, Ravel, Sibelius and Bartók on Farao Classics is highly desirable. Bibileishvili was born in 1988 in Georgia, a country then still under Soviet Union control. Aged only 12 she performed Rachmaninov’s first piano concerto with the Adjara Symphony Orchestra. In 2008 Bibileishvili moved to study music at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater, Munich graduating in 2015 with a Master’s degree with distinction. Bibileishvili now lives in Munich.

Opening the album, Prokofiev’s Sixth Piano Sonata from 1940, the first of the so-called three ‘War Sonatas’, is considered by many as the precious jewel of the trilogy. Although the Eighth, a Stalin prize winner, has been acknowledged as the composer’s greatest piano sonata and the Seventh is the most popular of the trilogy, the epic Sixth Sonata is the most fervently charged. In four movements Bibileishvili takes almost 29 minutes here. Strikingly effective, Bibileishvili excels in this writing of craggy and angular dissonance, with an almost incessant momentum which is contrasted with passages of uncertain calm in a late-Romantic style. The recording to have of the Sixth, for its performance full of penetration and passion, despite its mono sound (taking, incidentally around 3 minutes less than Bibileishvili) is the 1955 Moscow account from Sviatoslav Richter on Archipel.

In 1908 Ravel was inspired to compose three descriptive pieces for piano by the poems of Aloysius Bertrand under the collective title of Gaspard de la Nuit. In this fantasy world of gnomes, nymphs, goblins and ghosts the first piece of the trilogy Ondine reproducing the sound of water portrays the mythological water nymph Undine. Le Gibet depicts a corpse hanging from gallows and the final piece Scarbo is an ironic scherzo representing a goblin or will-o-the-wisp. Bibileishvili makes light work of the technical demands of the trilogy providing a spontaneous, almost improvisatory feel. Nevertheless, Walter Gieseking’s classic 1954 account on EMI remains my first choice recording of Ravel’s score.

Sibelius, although a violinist by trade, left a significant body of piano music and much of it is hardly known. Written over the period 1911-1919 Sibelius combined thirteen piano miniatures into a suite. Bibileishvili has selected ten of the set to perform here. In truth these rather slight miniatures are not especially to my taste and I would have preferred something more substantial, nevertheless, Bibileishvili takes them in her stride.
Evidently Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Winds (1923/24) was a stimulus to Bartók when writing his Piano Sonata in 1926. This is Bartók’s only piano sonata although he wrote a considerable number of piano works including sonatinas and suites. Harmonically Bartók keeps to tonality although the writing is highly dissonant. In an imposing performance, Bibileishvili makes light work of Bartók’s sound world principally motoric and disorienting in the outer movements and creating a curious sense of lethargy in the Sostenuto e pesante.

This high quality playing from Bibileishvili feels fresh and vital and is especially responsive to temperament and attention to dynamic nuance. Recorded at Kupferhaus Planegg, Munich the engineering team provide clarity and apt balance. Bibileishvili’s Steinway model D concert grand has an attractive sound. Written by Yvonne Petitpierre, the booklet essay is first class, both informative and readable.

A name that we are certainly going to hear a lot more about in the future, Lika Bibileishvili is in irresistible form.

Michael Cookson



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