Notes and Editorial Reviews
PRIMAKOV IN CONCERT, Vol. 1
Vassily Primakov (pn)
BRIDGE 9322 (75:53)
2 Chorale Preludes,
Album for Children.
Piano Sonata No. 2
release consists of works recorded in concert by this gifted young pianist, from 2002 (Schubert), 2004 (Rachmaninoff), 2006 (Tchaikovsky), and 2007 (Brahms). Vassily Primakov’s recent recording of Schubert impromptus and dances (reviewed in
34:1) did not prepare me for his intense, exciting reading of the
Fantasy (recorded when he was 22), which makes demands on the pianist that transcend the merely difficult. It is a feat to bring cohesiveness to the large-scale structure of the work, while elucidating the character of each of its four sections. Primakov, without any exaggeration, finds every expressive possibility as the parts of the fantasy unfold organically, from the driving intensity of the opening
, through the somber
like dance section, and the fugal finale. It is an exciting performance from start to finish.
The two Brahms chorale preludes, transcribed for piano from their organ settings by Busoni, are both based on the same text,
Herzlich thut mich verlangen
(My heart is filled with longing), but each is treated differently by Brahms. Primakov seems to reach deeply into the keys, producing a rich, dark sonority that complements the somber, majestic character of the text. Interestingly, he relates that when he first heard the Brahms recorded by his Russian teacher, Vera Gornostaeva, it made an inedible impression on him, but he put off playing them because he did not feel ready to face the “ominous finality” of this music. In 2007, age 28, he apparently felt the moment had arrived, and the result is a deeply stirring performance.
The 24 short pieces in the Tchaikovsky
Album for the Young—
well known to those who teach piano to children—are brief character pieces with picturesque titles (“Morning Prayer,” “The Sick Doll,” “Polka,” “Soldier’s March,” etc.). They are simple, but not childish; Primakov endows them with disarming simplicity and an innocent youthfulness that is never condescending.
Finally, there is Rachmaninoff’s Second Sonata, a powerful, richly textured work of extremes—impulsive, at times jarring with dissonance and raw feeling, at other times achingly moving. It is clearly a 20th-century work. In 1940 it was revised (with Rachmaninoff’s permission) by Vladimir Horowitz, and that was the edition that became known. Primakov, however, plays Rachmaninoff’s own revised version of 1931; to my ear, the differences are slight. It is a purely Russian work in which one can hear elements of Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata (premiered by Horowitz in 1945). Primakov is entirely at home with this sonata, thundering in the
of the outer movements, and deeply expressive in the middle “non-Allegro” movement. As brilliant and impressive as Horowitz’s reading is (in the Philips 1999 compilation Great Pianists of the 20th Century), it is matched by Primakov in this compelling performance.
Konstantin Lapshin, another fine young Russian pianist interviewed in
recently, observed simply but eloquently, “We Russians deliver music from the very bottom of our hearts. … It’s all about our specific Russian soul, which is enormously large.” His words sum up the essence of Vassily Primakov: This pianist is extraordinary in his intellectual and pianistic gifts and his instinctive musicality. His next volume of live concert recordings is awaited eagerly.
FANFARE: Susan Kagan
Works on This Recording
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