Four Pieces - Four Pianos: Schubert, Chopin, Liszt, Stravinsky
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Label: Harmonia Mundi
Cat No: HMM902299
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 26th January 2018
WorksEtudes (12), op.10
Reminiscences de Don Juan (Mozart), S418
Fantasie in C major, D760 'Wanderer'
Petrushka: Three movements for piano
ArtistsAlexander Melnikov (piano)
Schubert - Wanderer-Fantasie, D760, op.15
- Alois Graff piano, Vienna ca. 1835
Chopin - 12 Études, op.10
- Érard piano, Paris 1837
Liszt - Grande Fantaisie (Réminiscences) de Don Juan, S418
- Bösendorfer piano, Vienna ca. 1875
Stravinsky - 3 Mouvements de Pétrouchka
- Steinway piano, 2014
1Schubert - Fantasie in C Major, D. 760: I. Allegro con fuoco ma non troppo
2Schubert - Fantasie in C Major, D. 760: II. Adagio
3Schubert - Fantasie in C Major, D. 760: III. Presto
4Schubert - Fantasie in C Major, D. 760: IV. Allegro
5Chopin - Etudes, Op. 10: 1. Etude in C Major
6Chopin - Etudes, Op. 10: 2. Etude in A Minor
7Chopin - Etudes, Op. 10: 3. Etude in E Major
8Chopin - Etudes, Op. 10: 4. Etude in C Sharp Minor
9Chopin - Etudes, Op. 10: 5. Etude in G-Flat Major
10Chopin - Etudes, Op. 10: 6. Etude in E-Flat Minor
11Chopin - Etudes, Op. 10: 7. Etude in C Major
12Chopin - Etudes, Op. 10: 8. Etude in F Major
13Etudes, Op. 10: 9. Etude in F Minor
14Chopin - Etudes, Op. 10: 10. Etude in A-Flat major
15Chopin - Etudes, Op. 10: 11. Etude in E-Flat Major
16Chopin - Etudes, Op. 10: 12. Etude in C Minor
17Liszt - Réminiscences de Don Juan, S. 418: I. Grave
18Liszt - Réminiscences de Don Juan, S. 418: II. Duetto. Andantino
19Liszt - Réminiscences de Don Juan, S. 418: III. Variazione 1
20Liszt - Réminiscences de Don Juan, S. 418: IV. Variazione 2. Tempo giusto
21Liszt - Réminiscences de Don Juan, S. 418: V. Quasi Presto. Tempo deciso
22Stravinsky - Trois mouvements de Petrouchka: I. Danse russe
23Stravinsky - Trois mouvements de Petrouchka: II. Chez Pétrouchka
24Stravinsky - Trois mouvements de Petrouchka: III. La Semaine grasse
Presenting the works in chronological order, so that the listener is intelligently guided through 100 years of technical development (in both instrument building and playing technique), Melnikov starts with a magical performance of Schubert’s great ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy, D560. For this he uses an instrument by the Viennese maker Alois Graff (not to be confused with the better known Conrad Graf) of around 1835. It has distinctively leather-covered hammers, but the real attraction is the range of colour offered by a variety of modifying pedals, heard to best effect in a transcendently beautiful performance of the Adagio second section, whose use of Schubert’s song Der Wanderer, D489, gives the Fantasy its popular nickname as well as its unifying basic motif. In the Adagio in particular, Melnikov draws the listener into an unspoken (unsung) narrative through playing and registral choices of acute sensitivity, and his pacing and shading of the Fantasy as a whole places this among the great performances of this music, regardless of instrument.
Much the same could be said of his absorbing account of Chopin’s op.10 Études, played on an Érard instrument of 1837 whose double escapement action and underdamping make it an ideal instrument for the cantabile style so essential in Chopin. Melnikov’s accounts of these exquisite jewels are totally absorbing, whether in the fireworks of nos. 4 (the ‘Torrent’) and 12 (the ‘Revolutionary’), the coruscating brilliance of nos. 1 and 5 (‘Waterfall’ and ’Black Keys’) , or the rapt inwardness of nos. 3 and 6 (‘Tristesse’ and ‘Lament’). With a tangible sense of forward drive and expertly judged tempi, Melnikov’s performance rivals that of Pollini in terms of sheer technique, and arguably outdoes him in basic musicality, making this one of the standout accounts of this genre-defining collection.
Melnikov has huge fun with Liszt’s staggeringly virtuosic Reminiscences on Mozart’s Don Giovanni, but never at the expense of the underlying lyrical-narrative inspiration of Mozart’s music. Here the instrument is an 1875 Bösendorfer - an ideal if potentially temperamental choice which Melnikov has mastered to perfection, with superb control of textures and dynamics as if the instrument posed no challenges at all. As in all the other performances on the disc, there is remarkable clarity and dexterity allied to profound musical insight, raising the music from virtuoso showpiece to a masterwork of transformation.
The choice of a modern (2014) Steinway for Stravinsky’s glitteringly vivid and phenomenally challenging Three Movements from Petrushka of 1921 might raise some eyebrows, but Melnikov’s astonishing performance (which again rivals the famous Pollini on DG), completely committed and urgently propulsive, really does silence all criticism. Piano construction has changed remarkably little over the last 100 years compared with the previous century, and the present Steinway makes for an enlightening and instructive contrast with the other three instruments used here, as well as an ideal vehicle for Stravinsky’s exceptional demands.
Melnikov’s detailed, thoroughly researched and elegantly written booklet notes (on both the music and the instruments) are an education in themselves, and the recordings made in Berlin’s Teldex Studio are exceptionally fine in bringing out the character of the different pianos. Ultimately, however, it is Melnikov’s superbly judged, technically outstanding and expressively committed musicianship that really sets the seal on this disc, making it surely one of the most compelling piano recital discs of recent years.
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