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Dedicated to the 90th Anniversary of Vera Gornostayeva
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano sonata No.21 in C major Op.53 (1803-4) [25:30]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Three Piano Pieces D.946 (1828) [28:14]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Faschingsschwank aus Wien Op.26 (1839) [20:42]
Andrey Gugnin (piano: Beethoven)
Vadym Kholodenko (piano: Schubert)
Lukas Geniušas (piano: Schumann)
rec. live, July, 2019, Small Hall of Zaradye, Russia
Notes in Russian and English
MELODIYA MELCD1002619 [74:48]

The acclaimed pianist Vera Gornostayeva was born in 1929 and studied with Heinrich Neuhaus (1888-1964). She had great success as a pianist but she also won awards for her music journalism, wrote a book (Two Hours After the Concert) and presented radio and television series. She concertised to the age of 60, after which she concentrated on her career as a teacher and it is this perhaps that she is most remembered for and which gave her most satisfaction. “I am convinced that it is teaching (that) made a musician out of me, made me what I am now”. Her pupils include Pavel Egorov, Alexander Slobodyanik, Ivo Pogorelich, Sergei Babayan amongst many others and, latterly, the three recorded here.

For her 80th anniversary in 2009, the Moscow Conservatory held a music festival, “Vera's Relay” and this continued in the following years. In 2010 she performed with her daughter Xenia Knorre and grandson Lukas Geniušas in her final appearance at the conservatory. Gugnin, Kholodenko and Geniušas first appeared together at the festival in 2011; in 2019 they appeared together once more and dedicated their performance to their esteemed mentor who had passed in 2015, choosing composers that were the mainstay of Gornostayeva's repertoire.

Andrey Gugnin has won medals in several major competitions. His recent recording of Shostakovich on Hyperion (review) has garnered much praise and I was fortunate to review his Homage to Godowsky album recently (review). His Beethoven is muscular and incisive, with the level of detail I expected to hear and a fine sense of stillness and space in the adagio molto.

Vadym Kholodenko is also a prizewinner, taking Gold in the 2013 Cliburn competition and first prize in the 2011 Schubert piano competition. He has recorded Prokofiev Concertos to mixed reviews (review), as well as albums of Russian piano music and a two-piano disc with Gugnin. I wasn't so immediately gripped by his Schubert as I was by Gugnin's Beethoven; it is fine playing and he scales back the technical virtuosity but I wonder if he pares it back a little too much. For all the beautiful sound that is produced, I wanted a little more drama in my Schubert; in the second of the three pieces there is lyricism aplenty but I find it too slow for the allegretto marking.

There is no such issue with the Schumann which closes the recital. Lukas Geniušas has impressed me before in the short extracts I have heard from his Husum appearances released by Danacord (review review). His recordings have received praise for their concentration and imagination, quite apart from their technical prowess (review) and his Schumann is no exception – it fizzes with energy and he has a marvellous feel for the kaleidoscopic moods.

The Rachmaninoff Romance that the three pianists played as an encore is unfortunately not included in this collection but what we have here is attraction enough and well worth a listen. The sound is excellent and the applause after each piece is not intrusive.

Rob Challinor


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