ROMANTIC INTERPRETATIONS • Alla Nikitskaya (pn) • NEW ENGLAND 3290 (45:00)
CHOPIN Études: in c, “Revolutionary”; in A?, op. 25/1. Nocturne in D?. liszt Consolation, S 172/3. DEBUSSY Suite bergamasque: Clair de lune. La plus que lente. Children’s Corner: Golliwogg’s Cake-walk. Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum. Préludes, Bk. 1: La fille aux cheveux de lin. RACHMANINOFF Lilacs. Préludes: In G; in c?; in g?. TCHAIKOVSKY Morceaux, op. 19: Nocturne
"Pianist Alla Nikitskaya’s playing is notable for consistently lovely tone, polished technique, and perceptive musicality. Her interpretations are thoughtfully conceived and well paced: she never slights detail but doesn’t let it overwhelm the totalRead more picture. She can play with great passion—in the Schumann Fantasie, for example—and with dreamy or turbulent Impressionism, as in her Debussy group. The Rachmaninoff pieces are shaped with lyrical fluidity, and her Chopin and Liszt transmit romantic poetry or ardor as required. I also hear humor in the cheeky acciaccaturas of the Wagner-Liszt Spinning Song and “Golliwogg’s Cakewalk.”
When it comes to comparisons, most of the selections have already been voluminously recorded, so the field is rife with alternative possibilities. So many, in fact, that it would require a book to do justice to the subject. Still, although I could only scratch the surface, I listened to Horowitz’s Schumann from “An Historic Return” (Columbia), Osario’s “Sonetto 123 del Petrarca” (Çedille), and Hough’s Musical Snuffbox (Virgin Records). In the Schumann, I found Nikitskaya’s first movement—she didn’t record the other two—as effective as Horowitz’s. This is an absorbing performance, fiery and romantic, successfully characterizing the various diverse episodes, yet admirably cohesive overall. Horowitz takes marginally more time and I sometimes thought he exhibited a tad more tonal nuance, but this may have had to do with microphone placement: Nikitskaya was recorded in a studio, while Horowitz, performing on the stage of Carnegie Hall was captured from a slightly wider perspective. I must emphasize that there’s nothing lacking in Nikitskaya’s tonal resources. That said, I found the ethereal atmosphere with which Horowitz endows the last serene chords captivating, even while acknowledging that Nikitskaya plays them sensitively. In the Liszt, Osario takes 7:38 to Nikitskaya’s 5:45 and is dreamily poetic throughout. Nikitskaya savors the poetry but gives freer reign to surging Romanticism in the extroverted passages. Finally, Nikitskaya’s Liadov is delightful, but there’s no mistaking her instrument for anything but a piano. Hough somehow turns his piano into a delicate facsimile of tinkling tines. So, how to conclude? As I’ve said, endless comparisons with preexisting recordings are possible, but that doesn’t alter the fact that these are impressive performances by an accomplished pianist: the rest is up to you."