Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonata No. 3 in f. Fantasy after Mozart’s
Le nozze di Figaro.
Fantasy in c,
Piano Sonata in F,
Andante with Variations
Daria Gloukhova (pn)
CENTAUR 3080 (55:54)
As a critic, you tend to notice that some labels
produce consistently dull and uninteresting releases while others, for whatever reason, are consistently interesting and stimulating. Happily, Centaur is one of the latter companies. Nearly every Centaur release I’ve received for review is fascinating in one way or another, and some of them have replaced other longstanding reference recordings on my shelves.
If this disc doesn’t supplant any other in my collection, it is only because I have no other music by Hummel. Daria Gloukhova is a pretty young woman, 24 years old, and apparently so dedicated to Hummel that she has his family crest, name, and dates of birth and death tattooed on her left arm. I must admit that kind of scares me, but her playing is so absolutely mesmerizing that I forgive her whatever tattoos she chooses to inflict on herself, now or in the future. Go for it, girl! Whatever makes you play like this, I’m all for it!
She is similar to historically informed performers in that she plays in a straightforward rhythmic style, with no deviations for rubato. She differs from them in that she plays a modern piano, yet with such a tightly knit, cohesive style that you listen to her, mesmerized, from start to finish. We all know Hummel as a great pedagogue, like Carl Czerny, but are perhaps less familiar with him as a composer. This sonata and fantasy make a strong case to reconsider his worth; this is interesting music, half in the style of Mozart and half in the style of Beethoven, yet not really sounding like either. One wonders if someone would be charitable enough to finance a recording of Gloukhova playing some of his eight piano concertos, or perhaps his piano quartet and quintet. Gloukhova brings the same combination of warm tone, springy rhythm, and exceptional musical cohesiveness to Mozart’s Fantasy K 475 and Sonata in F. I’ve never heard Mozart played with such a combination of headlong excitement and dark, brooding colors. Gloukhova will completely change your perceptions, and expectations, of Mozart. Even the “lightweight” Sonata in F, played with delicious élan by Ronald Brautigam on BIS, sounds darker, moodier, more smoldering here in Gloukhova’s interpretation. This is a young woman who curries no favor with the modern tendency toward emotional detachment in her playing—she seems incapable of playing anything without going at it full bore. Her technique is absolutely dazzling, yet though, especially in the allegros, she seems to gobble up notes like Pac-Man, technique is not an end in itself but always, for her, a means to expressing the exultation or feeling she encounters in the music.
Hummel’s fantasy on Mozart’s
is exceptionally imaginative, breaking up the components of “Non più andrai” into fragments in the introduction and then, after statement of the theme, running through virtuosic changes and variants in a most imaginative way, including a switch to minor for the bridge and a relaxation of tempo for further variants. The return to strict tempo does not mean a return to major, however, as Hummel keeps moving in and out of minor keys as well as numerous key changes. Gloukhova balances all this like an army of angels dancing on the head of a pin, her playing extraordinarily neat and, in this piece, playful as well.
Mendelssohn’s Andante with Variations receives a warm, glowing reading of its opening statement, then her by-now familiar condensation of pulse and smoldering, flowing legato in the variations. It should be reiterated that, for all her forward momentum, Gloukhova never plays anything in a shallow manner, which for me is the mark of a true artist. I can only hope that she goes far in her career; I’ll certainly be looking for her name on future releases.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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