Notes and Editorial Reviews
Mazurkas: in B?,
Nocturnes: in F,
Scherzos: No. 1 in b; No. 4 in E. Polonaise in e?,
Dina Yoffe (pn) (period instrument)
FRYDERYK CHOPIN INSTITUTE 012 (73:40)
This is the fifth CD from the Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Poland that I have heard. All have been excellent. They feature performances on period instruments. The piano in question here is an 1848 Pleyel, manufactured in Paris. It has 82 keys, and its original hammers and soundboard are virtually intact. Dina Yoffe, a veteran pianist who normally plays on a modern instrument, takes to it like a fish to water. She commands a beautiful sonority, with wide dynamics and an often luminous tone. It is hard to assess pedaling from a recording, but Yoffe seems to pedal judiciously for expression.
This recording is my first encounter with Yoffe. She was born in Riga, Latvia, and pursued her studies at the Central Music School in Moscow. She then went to the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, where she worked with a disciple of Heinrich Neuhaus. Like so many Russian-trained pianists, she is an especially soulful interpreter of Chopin. I am thinking in particular of Vladimir Ashkenazy, Dmitri Alexeev, and Dang Thai Son. At age 23, Yoffe took second prize in the 1975 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. She has spent much of her career as a teacher, and is in demand for competition juries.
This CD presents a beautifully structured program, a tribute to the maturity and experience of Yoffe. I had no trouble listening to it twice in a row. Her mazurkas are wonderfully characterized. Some are pensive; others are more dance-like. Her choice of nocturnes emphasizes the sensitivity of her playing. I was reminded of Barenboim’s nocturnes, one of the most recommendable of the complete recorded sets. In the two scherzos here and the polonaise, Yoffe’s performances are alternately brilliant and subtle. She takes some daringly slow tempos, but never loses sight of the main line. Her rendition of the Fourth Scherzo, which concludes the program, is almost revelatory; it is many-hued and full of interesting details, yet it hangs together marvelously. All of the above is captured in fine sound from a Polish radio studio. The only down side to this CD is the prolix, abstract, and windy program notes, a regular feature of this series.
I believe it was Rudolf Firkušný who suggested that there should be a prize for less heralded pianists in the prime of their careers, instead of ones just for competing young pianists. Dina Yoffe would be a real contender for it. Highly recommended.
FANFARE: Dave Saemann
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