Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonatas: in D,
Andante with Variations,
Alexander Kobrin (pn)
QUARTZ 28888 (72: 44)
This is an often delightful release, pleasingly and realistically
recorded. Liner notes are short, but to the point and informative. The four sonatas are carefully chosen, and the decision to place the famous F-Minor Variations at the close is a fine one. The actual playing order of the sonatas is D Major; E Minor; B Minor; Eb-Major.
The D-Major Sonata (published 1780) introduces the listener to Kobrin’s fine articulation; his reading of the first movement is sprightly and engaging. Kobrin has no objections to playing against the basic tempo at times, each time returning exactly to his tempo primo. Affection is the keyword here, something which also shines through the central
Largo e sostenuto
, where the music finds surprisingly dark regions. Kobrin is daringly slow, perhaps to emphasize contrast with the finale (which, in order to confirm this, starts almost too innocently).
The E Minor (1781/82) and the B Minor (1776) provide a central panel of minor mode fodder. The B Minor is the more enigmatic of the two, and is where Kobrin is most successful, hitting the heart of Haydn’s created world dead center, although perhaps he misses the humor of the finale by a fraction. Kobrin’s finger fluency in the finale of the B Minor is remarkable.
The grand Eb-Sonata is the one most people know, I suspect. It has been recorded by a roster of great pianists. Of the extensive list on ArkivMusic, it is Brendel’s late Philips one that takes the honors. But the list omits the admittedly hard to find and probably deleted twofer on Ivory Classics by Nadia Reisenberg, raved about by my colleague Bernard Jacobson in
22:3. Reisenberg and Kobrin share an expressive esthetic that has no problems referring to romantic models, but it is Reisenberg that is the most convincing. She also has more tonal variety and, in the final analysis, a closer connection with Haydn. Her accents, for example, have bite but do not thump at you in the way Kobrin’s can; and perhaps Kobrin is overly sober in the first movement. While Reisenberg offers perfectly shaded turns to minor key areas, Kobrin offers instead a notably well-thought through reading which, in comparison, lacks distinction. Yet in the central
he excels. His achievement here is that he does not try to make this into a Beethovenian statement, although it is easy to hear links to the various slow movements of Beethoven’s sonatas of Opp. 2 and 10. Kobrin’s finale is not quite up to par. Phrase endings sound a bit careful, and articulation is good but not perfect.
Finally, the great set of Variations in F Minor. Brendel again springs to mind in connection with this piece; perhaps also Ingrid Haebler (Philips). This piece, in fact, proves to be the climax proper of Kobrin’s Haydn recital. Starting from a properly quiet opening, it becomes clear that Kobrin sees this piece as attempting to set out a whole expressive sphere in which the delicacy can be deliberately undermined. The close dissolves brilliantly into nothingness. Well worth hearing.
FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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