Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonata in e.
Nos. 4, 10, 18.
Variations on a Russian Folk Song.
Fantasy in f?
Daria Gloukhova (pn)
CENTAUR 3145 (46:03)
The great and mysterious Russian pianist Daria Gloukhova—the woman with Hummel’s name and family crest tattooed on her left arm—makes a reappearance here in a
recital of music by Grieg, Field, and Mendelssohn. This is not an event to be taken lightly. So little appears to be known of her (her scanty bio in the liner notes runs all of one paragraph), and she is so good, that for me at least each release is like a gift from above.
As in her previous Centaur release (3080) of music by Hummel and Mozart, one is sucked into Gloukhova’s very personal sound world from the very first notes of the Grieg sonata. Not only is it played with a smoldering intensity infrequently heard in this music, but the phrasing and rhythmic feel are entirely different from any other performance I’ve ever heard, and this includes Grieg’s own 1903 recordings of the last two movements as well as Sigurd Slåttebrekk’s highly imaginative performance (on Simax) following the composer’s own phrasing and rhythmic accents. Gloukhova simply finds her own way with the music, a style somewhere between Dinu Lipatti and Martha Argerich: more powerful and impulsive than the first, more lyrical and deeply felt than the second. Her Alla minuetto has an almost tragic stutter-step in it that lifts the music above the mundane and puts it into an entirely different world—a mood broken by the lighter, sunnier trio section. The Finale, too, constantly juxtaposes dark, brooding, almost Beethovenian feelings against elfin lightness in the quiet passages. This is
That she can be consistently lyrical, yet lack any preciousness or bathos, shines through gloriously in her equally unique readings of John Field’s nocturnes. Irish pianist John O’Conor has been justly praised for his readings of his countryman’s music, but Gloukhova gives the music her own personal twist, ever-so-slightly increasing the tempo and pressing forward (or what, for lack of a better term, I would call “leaning on the beat”) in the faster middle passages. The quick finale fairly dances an Irish jig. More elfin humor shines through the Nocturne No. 18 in E, while the Variations on a Russian Folk Song have a more melancholy bent while again avoiding over-emotionality. Indeed, it is Gloukhova’s unique ability to juggle so many disparate elements simultaneously—mood, emotion, and a manner of playing that sounds completely spontaneous though I am sure it is the end process of long, hard work—that makes her stand out so much as an interpreter.
All these elements come together in the concluding Mendelssohn Fantasy, a work that she invests with every ounce of her heart and soul. In the opening
Con moto agitato
, one almost feels she is baring her own emotions through the music, so potent is the headlong rush of the agitato passages. The music cascades down the descending 16ths toward a pit of emotional blackness. The sun and joy completely disappear in the movement’s quiet ending, only to reappear just as quickly in the short and jolly second movement. The Presto finale begins in a querulous mood, neither sad nor happy, though clearly unsettled emotionally. This emotional unsettling continues even through the second theme, which is appropriate because it is then followed by a repeat of the opening statement. Gloukhova apparently feels that Mendelssohn himself was emotionally ambiguous in this movement, leaning neither completely toward darkness or elation. Yes, there is even a feeling of what one critic called a “minor ‘up’” in the way she plays certain passages here. Intellectually, she knows that the music is slightly tragic, but emotionally she feels that there are occasional yet insistent moments of bittersweet joy that prevent the music from teetering over the edge. Her patented headlong rush through the finale leans ever so slightly toward tragedy once again, just enough to make the listener feel almost glad when it is over.
This is an absolute gem of a recital. I can’t say enough about this disc, which will receive multiple plays from me.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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