Following his recent dazzling but provocative – even cavalier – Ravel recital (Teldec, 3/95), Boris Berezovsky makes a formidable return to home territory. And in this most imaginative programme he displays a superabundance of technique in the most comprehensive sense of the term, and, for the greater part, the sort of emotional commitment that is second nature to the greatest Russian pianists.
His selection from the Op. 39 Etudes continues the legend commenced by his two previous Teldec Rachmaninov recitals (9/92 and 7/94) and confirms that he is among this composer’s most powerful and eloquent interpreters. In No. 3 in F sharp minor Berezovsky’s romantic freedom and richness of expression are several removes from other moreRead more conventional approaches. His rubato is pained and ecstatic and the music seems to move across an immense emotional and dynamic spectrum within its brief but intricate space. What drama he achieves too, in the great funeral elegy of No. 7 (lugubre and lamentoso), complementing a hair-raising advance to the dissonant and audacious climax with a rare finesse in the central triple piano and legatissimo reminder of the Russian liturgy. And it is this finesse which makes every bar of the Liadov Preludes memorable, whether in the ultra-Russian memory of Chopin in No. 1, or the octave storms of No. 3 (where the parallel with Scriabin’s Etude, Op. 8 No. 9 is remarkably close).
Medtner’s dark-hued Fairy Tales, too, find a potent and ideal interpreter both in malignant antics (the “Wood goblin”, Op. 34 No. 3) and subtle and elusive attributes (the Romantic Sketch: the perfect encore to keep an audience guessing). The recital is framed by two towering feats of virtuoso pianism. Mussorgsky’s Night on the Bare Mountain, arranged by Konstantin Tchernov, is as pulverizing an experience as is was at Berezovsky’s Wigmore Hall recital – allegro feroce, indeed! And Balakirev’s Islamey is tossed off at breakneck speed, its sadistic, madcap difficulties resolved like so much child’s play. I have to admit an occasional longing for a complementary glamour and character here, but in its stunningly imperious way this performance is unrivalled.
The recordings are close and airless, the accompanying notes inadequate, but there are excellent photographs of all five composers, and no piano buff should miss an awe-inspiring addition to this 27-year-old artist’s rapidly expanding discography.
Night on the Bare Mountainby Modest Mussorgsky Performer:
Boris Berezovsky (Piano)
Period: Romantic Written: 1866; Russia Notes: This selection was transcribed by Konstantin Tchernov from the Rimsky-Korsakov version of the score.