Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonatas: No. 2; No. 23,
Lilya Zilberstein (pn)
2 (52:00) Live: Bad Homburg 10/2007
In 27:4, I was favorably impressed with Lilya Zilberstein’s Clementi recital on Hänssler, and I remain so with her current release of two of Beethoven’s sonatas. I am unfavorably impressed, however, with the unhelpful printed booklet that accompanies this release, and with a CD
short on timing that gives us only half of a live concert event. The disc is one of a series that K&K Verlagsanstalt (a German recording and publishing company) labels “Grand Piano Masters,” this one with “Appassionata” appended to it. If you wish to hear the second half of the program that was comprised of solo piano works by Brahms, you will have to buy “Grand Piano Masters—Passione,” catalog number 3. Moreover, the author of the enclosed notes seems to think it’s more important to tell us about the recording venue, Bad Homburg’s Castle Church, its audiophile-friendly acoustic properties, and the concerts that take place there than to tell us anything about the works on the disc. And unless you visit K&K’s Web site or play the disc in your computer’s CD drive, you would know from the notes only where the event took place but not when.
Clearly, this is one of those audiophile specialty labels that places more emphasis on the recording venue and instruments employed than it does on the composer and the music. We are informed, for example, that not only is Zilberstein playing a C. Bechstein Model 280, but that its specific number is 194643—as if serious compromise would have resulted had the instrument been number 194642, or that anyone would have heard a difference. All of this would seem just a bit smug and self-regarding were it not for the fact that K&K has found in Lilya Zilberstein a fantastic pianist, and were it not for the fact that the winning combination of Zilberstein, the Castle Church, the Bechstein 194643, and the recording engineers, Andreas Otto Grimminger and Josef-Stefan Kindler, have produced a piano recording the likes of which I’ve never heard.
The sound is astounding; there is no other word for it. There is not a hint of reverb, yet the acoustic image is anything but airless or damped. Every note of the instrument from top to bottom rings with clarity and precision, yet there is no ringing or pinging overhang. The recording is capable of accommodating everything from the instrument’s softest, most nuanced
to its loudest, thundering
with a naturalness that simply makes the fact you are listening to an artificially produced sound disappear. There is nothing between you and the 194643.
So what of Zilberstein’s performances? Incredible! If Beethoven could only have heard his “Appassionata” played like this. Perhaps in his mind’s inner ear he did. To what extent the clarity and precision of Zilberstein’s playing is enhanced by the recording, it’s hard to know; I wasn’t there. But it’s no accident that the equally high-powered, always-on-the-edge, mercurial Martha Argerich has chosen to team up with Zilberstein for more than one memorable recording. Zilberstein’s “Appassionata,” if not quite on the level of Fazil Say’s death-defying kamikaze mission, yields nothing to Say in terms of intensity and concentrated drama.
This is a recording you must own, not just for Zilberstein’s playing, which is phenomenal, but equally for an incomparable audiophile experience.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
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