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The Art of Maria Yudina
Maria Yudina (piano)
rec. 1936-1970, Moscow
SCRIBENDUM SC813 [26 CDs: 29 hours]

Maria Yudina’s legacy has been released on disc before. Many volumes were devoted to her by Vista Vera and in my lengthy review of the first fourteen I devoted some space to the variable nature of the performances and of the original recordings.

Other companies, of course, have ventured into her discographic waters, though some have not progressed far. APR’s single volume was devoted to some of her Beethoven sonatas (review). Their transfers were very different to Vista Vera’s. And at this point I ought to make clear that Scribendum’s 26-CD box contains transfers that, so far as I can tell, are identical to Vista Vera’s. In no cases where I made comparisons did I notice any difference.

Given that I’ve reviewed over half the contents previously I’ll direct the newcomer to some of the most notable items that I didn’t cover previously. Her sizeable but sometimes bewildering art is one that has long divided auditors. The Goldberg variations slalom alarmingly between the twin poles of admirable and perplexing - impatient, banging, personalised, very uneven in recording quality, but occasionally transporting in liveliness and affection. The two items at the end of the third disc, Bach’s Prelude in F sharp minor BWV883 and the Toccata in C minor, BWV911 are the earliest items in the set, dating from around 1936 and are heard in rather poor over-filtered transfers. Her Haydn sonata is interesting to hear but it’s a shame that it distorts in fortes (it was made in 1951, so shouldn’t really be that bad). Her Mozart variations and the fantasia are often fine and it’s a pity that the recording of her 1964 Sonata, K533 is so constricted in sound or has been made so by the transfer. The conductor of her imposing Beethoven Choral Fantasia recording of 1947 is Sergei Gorchakov, the man responsible for her famous dead-of-night Mozart concerto recording for Stalin.

The set includes two discs documenting the live recital she gave in Kiev on 4 April 1954, housed in volumes 11 and 12. Sound quality is clangy. But one can hear her slow, desynchronised Moonlight Sonata, a forceful and dramatic Tempest, again mitigated by distorted sound, the first four of Prokofiev’s Visions Fugitives, excerpts from Borodin’s Petite Suite and an imposing Schubert Sonata D960 that once again will divide critical opinion. Her Liszt Variations on Bach’s Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen dates from 1950 and is a superior performance to her breathless Schubert Impromptu in E flat major, D899.

Despite the presence of the Beethoven Quartet, the 1960 reading of the Trout hardly brims over with joie de vivre; it’s all a bit solemn. Stravinsky’s Concerto for Winds and Piano is better, presided over by Rozhdestvensky in 1968. She accompanies string soloists in disc 20; Natalia Shakhovskaya in Debussy’s Cello Sonata, who is far too sleepy in the opening movement, from which things never recover, but Lev Evgrafov is better in Prokofiev’s C major sonata. Best of all is Fyodor Druzhinin in Honegger and Hindemith’s Viola Sonatas – subtle and imaginative, as ever. She shares disc 21 with another elite instrumentalist, the splendid clarinettist Lev Mikhailov and together they perform Debussy, Berg (the Four Pieces, Op.5), Honegger’s Sonatina, and the sonatas by Poulenc and Hindemith. Mikhailov played in the best Soviet orchestras as principal and is always worth hearing.

Yudina takes on Szymanonwski’s Nine Preludes in volume 22 as well as the Variations, Op.3, neither recording being especially well-known. She is good in Hindemith’s Sonata No.3 and has the advantage of Marina Drozdova in the same composer’s Sonata for Two Pianos. The following disc is all-Bartók with Drozdova again on hand in one of the pieces from Mikrokosmos, and Mikhailov and Victor Pikaizen for a gutsy Contrasts. There’s a committed performance of the Sonata for two pianos and percussion. The more challenging twentieth-century repertoire is all contained in the last few discs, if you accept Bartók, in the context of what was relatively new music when Yudina recorded it in the early 60s. At roughly the same time she was also recording Stravinsky and there’s a strongly argued Duo Concertant with Pikaizen to consider alongside her Serenade in A major, Sonata in C major and the Sonata for two pianos with Drozdova. When it came to the Concerto for two pianos, she was paired instead with Derevyanko.

Shaporin’s Sonata No.2 opens the penultimate disc, followed by a rare example of her Martinů – two sliver-like pieces recorded 18 months or so after the composer’s death. The full Visions Fugitives are here as is Kazimierz Serocki’s set of brief Preludes, composed in 1952 and recorded by Yudina the following year. Some of the most important examples of her commitment to the music of her time come in the very last disc where one finds Krenek’s Sonata, Op.59, Shostakovich’s Second Sonata of 1942, recorded in 1965, as well three excerpts from Jolivet’s Mana and Berg’s Sonata, Op.1.

Documentation is a one-page sliver of biography about Yudina, but then this has never been Scribendum’s strong suit. Until scrupulous restoration takes place on her recordings, this is currently the most effective way to acquire the bulk of her legacy on disc.

Jonathan Woolf

Bach: 14 Preludes & Fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier book II, Goldberg Variations, 6 Preludes and Fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier book I, Chromatic Fantasia, Prelude and Fugue BWV543, Prelude BWV883, Toccata BWV911, Sonata for Violin and Piano No.3
Bartók: 8 pieces from Mikrokosmos, Contrasts: Trio for Clarinet, Violin & Piano, Sonata for two Pianos and Percussion
Beethoven: Piano Concertos No.4 & No.5, Sonatas No.5, No.12, No.14, No.16, No.17, No.22, No.27, No.28, No.29 & No.32, 15 Variations (Eroica Variations), 33 Diabelli Variations, 32 Variations on an Original Theme, Sonata for Violin and Piano No.6, Choral Fantasia Op.80
Berg: Four pieces for Clarinet and Piano, Piano Sonata Op.1
Borodin: Petite Suite (excerpts)
Brahms: Variations and Fugue on a theme by Handel, Intermezzi, Rapsodia in G minor, Quartet No.2
Debussy: Cello Sonata, Puck's Dance & Heather from the 24 Prelude
Haydn: Sonata in E flat major
Hindemith: Viola Sonata, Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Sonata for two Pianos, Sonata No.3
Honegger: Viola Sonata, Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano
Křenek: Sonata Op.59
Jolivet: Mana (Excerpts)
Liszt: Variations “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen“
Live in Kiev 4th April 1954
Lutosławski: Variations on a Theme by Paganini
Martinů: The Fifth Day of the Fifth Moon, Les Bouquinistes du Quai Malaquais
Medtner: Sonata-Triad
Mozart: Piano Concertos No.20 & No.23, 9 Duport Variations, Fantasia K475 & K397, Adagio K540, Rondo KV511, Sonata K533, Lachrymosa from Requiem 9arr Saltykov)
Mussorgsky: Duma, Razdumye, Sleza, Scherzo in C sharp minor, Three Pieces on themes from Boris Godunov, Pictures at an Exhibition
Poulenc: Clarinet Sonata in B flat major
Prokofiev; Cello Sonata Op.119, Romeo and Juliet before parting, Visions Fugitives, Choses en Soi Op.45 a
Schubert: 3 Impromptus, Sonata No.10, 21, D960, Piano Quintet ‘Trout’, Am Meer, Moment Musicaux, D780
Schumann: Fantasiestücke, Bird as Prophet
Serocki: Suite of Preludes
Shaporin: Sonata No.2
Shostakovich: Sonata No.2
Stravinsky: Concerto for Piano and Winds, Circus Polka, Concerto for two Pianos, Duo Concertant, Serenade for Piano, Sonata for two Pianos, Sonata in C major
Szymanowski: 9 Preludes Op.1, Variations in B flat minor
Taneyev: Quartet Op.20, Quintet Op.30
USSR State Radio Symphony Orchestra/Sergei Gorchakov, Alexander Gauk, Nathan Rakhlin
Leningrad Symphony Orchestra/Kurt Sanderling
State TV and Radio Symphony Orchestra/Gennady Rozhdestvensky
Violin: Marina Kozolupova, Dmitri Tsyganov, Vasiliy Shirinsky, Victor Pikaizen
Viola: Vadim Borisovsky, Feodor (Fyodor) Druzhinin
Cello: Sergei Shirinsky, Lev Evgrafov, Natalia Shakhovskaya
Double-bass: Vladimir Khomenko
Soloists of Beethoven String Quartet
Clarinet: Lev Mikhailov
Percussion: Valentin Snegiriov, Ruslan Nikulin
Piano: Maria Yudina, Marina Drozdova, Victor Derevyanko

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