Notes and Editorial Reviews
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SCHUMANN Symphonic Etudes. LISZT Années de pèlerinage, Book II: Sonetto 104 del Petrarca, Sonetto 123 del Petrarca, Après une lecture du Dante. Transcendental Etudes: Nos. 8 and 10 • Roman Zaslavsky (pn) • EUROARTS Blu-ray: 2003022 CD: EA 3022 (69:29)
Roman Zaslavsky is a youngish Russian-Israeli pianist; although he has a string of competition victories going back at least 15 years, this seems to be his first major commercial CD (his website also lists a live recording, taken from recitals in Porto Alegre, Brazil—available from Japan—that’s also anchored in the Symphonic Etudes ). That’s surprising: Zaslavsky has formidable fingers and a strong interpretive personality, and we should have heard more of him before now.
Not that these are superficially ingratiating performances. Zaslavsky is a fairly deliberate pianist, favoring a dark bass-centered tone and generally slowish tempos; and while he’s responsive to Schumann’s striving passion and his mood swings (try the first etude), you couldn’t exactly call this fanciful playing, even in the upbeat final etude. You probably wouldn’t call it exhibitionistic, either: While he clearly has the fingers for barn-burning, he doesn’t seem to have the temperament; and while there’s plenty of exciting playing (especially in the climaxes of the Dante Sonata ), the disc doesn’t flaunt virtuoso dazzle. Nor does the music really sound spontaneous: Even when the rubato is extreme—try the second half of the second Etude or Liszt’s Sonetto 104 —it can sound carefully calculated.
Rather, the performances are thoughtful: steady rather than quicksilver, illuminating rather than brilliant. You may, in spots, find yourself impatient with his earnestness: While it’s hard not to admire the evenness of his trills, Schumann’s eighth Etude is almost deadly in its drawn-out pace; he doesn’t always have what it takes to keep the momentum up in the slower passages of the Dante Sonata ; and his tendency to emphasize points of arrival is sometimes exaggerated. Still, you’ll also find yourself consistently rewarded by his imaginative voicing, his glorious legato, his restrained but subtle sense of color (listen to the way Sonetto 123 dies away), and his intense conviction.
As for the production: This disc has the title Ingenious Opposites: Volume I, and the program notes, in the form of a conversation between Gerda Borkamp and the pianist, spend a lot of time trying to justify the combination of Schumann and Liszt. But it hardly needs justification, and the argument is often a bit confusing anyway. In terms of audio: This is EuroArts’ first Blu-ray audio disc, and, like 2L, they’ve provided multiple options.The Blu-ray box offers a Blu-ray with three alternatives in 24/96khz (a 5.1 version and two stereo mixes), as well as a standard CD; the CD can also be purchased separately, as, we’re told, can a high-resolution download (although I couldn’t find that option on the EuroArts website). I did most of my listening to the 5.1 tracks, which sounded timbrally true and spatially realistic; sampling of the other options (except for the download) showed the same expertise. All in all, an impressive semi-debut. I look forward to the next volume.
FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
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