RAVEL Miroirs: Oiseaux tristes; Alborada del gracioso; La Vallée des cloches. La Valse. SHOSTAKOVICH Preludes, op. 34: Nos. 1, 2, 5, 7, 20, 24. Prelude and Fugue in g?, op. 87/12. Read more class="COMPOSER12">LISZT Fantasia on Themes from Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” MOZART Allegro in B?, K 400, “Sophie und Constanza.” MUSGRAVE Snapshots
There’s a story about Dame Kiri Te Kanawa I enjoy. It seems that when she auditioned at Covent Garden for Sir Colin Davis, he asked her to return the next day for a second audition. Apparently Davis was so flabbergasted by her combination of physical and vocal beauty that he wanted to make certain he wasn’t imagining things. I’m having a similar reaction to Oxana Shevchenko. Her CD bills her as “Winner of the 2010 Scottish International Piano Competition.” I am not fond of piano competitions. They tend to produce winners with fine fingers and little imagination. Shevchenko, however, is a remarkable pianist. Born in 1987 in Kazhakstan, she currently is a post-graduate student in Moscow. Her final-round performance in Glasgow was of Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto, which has become a warhorse for a more famous young pianist, Yuja Wang. A few days later, Shevchenko recorded the present CD as a portion of her first prize, offering selections from her competition repertoire. She has created from this a diverse and highly satisfying program. As for her performance, all I can say is that this young lady has everything.
As a comparison, I listened to the four Ravel pieces Shevchenko plays in recordings by Abbey Simon and Thérèse Dussaut, both eminent Ravel pianists. While Simon and Dussaut each play with intelligence and style, Shevchenko just has that extra something that places her in a separate class. Her Oiseaux tristes, from Miroirs, is wonderfully evocative, with a foretaste of Messiaen. In Alborada del gracioso, Shevchenko’s rendition is lithe and gracious, giving a guitar-like feel to the Spanish dance elements. Sometimes her rhythmic snap evokes castanets in flamenco. For La Vallée des cloches, the suggestions of echoes and distances are beautifully rendered. I am reminded of Charles Ives’s night pieces. Next come selections from Shostakovich’s early preludes. Shevchenko’s performance is alternately wistful, then filled with wit and panache. The last prelude here reminds me of the polka from The Golden Age.
Liszt’s Fantasia on Themes from Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” is not as well known as his fantasy on Don Giovanni, although it should be. Ferruccio Busoni completed and edited Liszt’s fragmentary manuscript. The result is a showpiece par excellence for Shevchenko. She produces a rich, full, and chocolaty tone when introducing “Non più andrai” and “Voi che sapete.” Her interpretation covers a full range of orchestral colors. I hesitate to say this, but her dynamism here produces an echo of Vladimir Horowitz. This is sensational Liszt. The Mozart Allegro makes an excellent choice to follow the Liszt, particularly with its hint of “Non più andrai.” Shevchenko’s performance is full of elegant fingerwork and joie de vivre, depicting the bantering of the Weber sisters. Shostakovich’s 12th Prelude and Fugue features an austerity that makes it a wonderful contrast to the Liszt and the Mozart, although Shevchenko displays considerable virtuosity in the fugue. Her performance is rich in Bachian overtones.
Thea Musgrave’s Snapshots was written for the Scottish competition, and this represents its recording premiere. Interestingly, the score contains no tempo marks, dynamics, or articulation; therefore much is left to the taste and judgment of the performer. Shevchenko offers a winning realization that is both articulate and frisky. To end the recital, Shevchenko returns to Ravel at his most pianistically taxing in La Valse. Her performance is taut and dramatic, with dark shadings. She produces effortless virtuosity and delineation of textures. Despite the Viennese locale, Shevchenko’s tone color here is very French. The work’s conclusion is heart-stopping for Shevchenko’s command of the instrument. The microphone placement for this recital is commendably distant, enabling us to appreciate Shevchenko’s coloristic effects and wide dynamic range. She plays so brilliantly that the details of her performances are clear despite the distant audio focus. So, Oxana Shevchenko is a great discovery. Judging from this recital, she can do anything. I only hope that her album receives wide enough circulation to prompt further recordings. I think we are watching the start of something wonderful.
FANFARE: Dave Saemann
As part of her first-prize-winning package at the 2010 Scottish International Piano Competition, Kazakhstan-born Oxana Shevchenko went to the studios to record this disc. It is, without doubt, impressive. She has not sought to construct a rounded programme, instead focusing on movements from Ravel’s
Miroirs, and a selection of Shostakovich’s Op.34 Preludes, a single Op.87 Prelude and Fugue and three other works by Liszt, Mozart and Thea Musgrave.
She is clearly a devoted and intelligent Ravel pianist. She plays
Oiseaux tristes, Alborada del grazioso and
La Vallée des cloches from
Miroirs with sensitive directness, shaping lines - and gauging dynamics - with finesse. She has chosen well, given the opportunities to bring out the vitality and colouristic essence of the music, opportunities she takes with insight. Again, she chooses from the Shostakovich works with care for contrast and characterisation. The Fifth Prelude is full of diverting intensity, whilst in the 24
th she certainly catches the pawky humour implicit in the writing.
Unabashed by the challenge, she also takes on the Liszt/Busoni Fantasia on Two Themes from Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’. This can be something of a minefield with its coruscating demands sounding flashy and unremitting in less sensitive hands. Fortunately that’s not the case here here, where we find playing of supple naturalness of phrasing allied to first class virtuosic instincts. The charm of the Mozart Allegro in B flat is conveyed with just as much conviction too. Thea Musgrave’s
Snapshots, commissioned for the competition, is a five minute piece that encourages the pianist to change dynamics and tempi. It’s an attractive work and sounds fine in this performance, one that conveys its malleable intensity. In
La Valse she again proves to have the measure of the work’s incremental pressures and ultimately despairing disintegration. She builds up to this moment with the kind of clarity of articulation she displayed in
Miroirs and ensures that the pace never slackens. Once again this is formidable musicianship at work.
This recital functions as an index of Shevchenko’s enthusiasms and repertoire now, and whilst perhaps therefore unsuitable for ‘collecting’ purposes, in the strict sense, nevertheless, on its own terms, enshrines playing of considerable poise, maturity and genuine accomplishment.
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International Read less
Miroirs: Oiseaux tristesby Maurice Ravel Performer:
Oxana Shevchenko (Piano)
Period: 20th Century Written: 1904-1905; France Venue: Guinness Room, Royal Scottish Academy of Length: 4 Minutes 2 Secs.
Miroirs: Alborada del graciosoby Maurice Ravel Performer:
Oxana Shevchenko (Piano)
Period: 20th Century Written: 1904-1905; France Venue: Guinness Room, Royal Scottish Academy of Length: 6 Minutes 46 Secs.
Miroirs: La vallée des clochesby Maurice Ravel Performer:
Oxana Shevchenko (Piano)
Period: 20th Century Written: 1904-1905; France Venue: Guinness Room, Royal Scottish Academy of Length: 6 Minutes 10 Secs.
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