We live in an age of phenomenal technical expertise, but only comparatively rarely does a player emerge who is so musically engaging that one barely notices the technical means involved. Rachel Kolly d’Alba is one of the gifted few who never lapses into interpretative rhetoric or cliché, but lives through the music as though it has taken her over. The Gershwin Fantasy is black with notes, but in Kolly d’Alba’s ever-responsive hands each one rings true. She rides the surging tide of Gershwin’s imagination with unforced freshness and spontaneity.
Bernstein’s Serenade has never responded particularly well to overt Brahmsian passion and espressivo (even Isaac Stern with the composer at the helm doesn’t sound entirely convincing), but listen to Kolly d’Alba’s chamber-scale inflections and sensitivity and any potential problems appear to melt away. She uncovers an intimacy of voice in this music that the virtuoso overdrive of mainstream interpretation rides roughshod over.
Yet the stand-out performance here is arguably the Waxman Carmen Fantasie, in which Kolly d’Alba turns every arabesque, flying harmonic and octave flourish into compelling musical matter. The recording is amazingly lifelike and convincingly balanced, although some may prefer a more physically imposing solo image.