Vassily Primakov plays Brahms, Chopin & Scriabin

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COMPOSERS: Brahms,Chopin,Scriabin
LABELS: Bridge
WORKS: Brahms: Three Intermezzos, Op. 117; Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23; Ballade No. 2 in F, Op. 38; Ballade No. 3 in A flat, Op. 47; Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52; Scriabin: Sonata No. 4 in F sharp, Op. 30
PERFORMER: Vassily Primakov (piano); dir. David Starobin (Demark, 2009)


Vassily Primakov is the latest in a stream of gifted Russian pianists who present peerless credentials, near-faultless technique and extravagant claims of musical greatness.

This video, recorded without audience in Odense, Denmark, certainly reveals Primakov as a serious artist with fabulous pianistic skills. His tone quality is velvety, his phrasing unfailingly sensitive, and he seems remarkably at one with Scriabin’s Fourth Sonata and its febrile, mercurial world. 

Other points are less satisfactory. There’s a bar missing from Chopin’s Third Ballade, which someone must have thought nobody would notice. The Brahms is at times misconceived, the intermezzi’s gorgeous long phrases tending to be chopped up into smaller chunks that distort the rhythm.

Why doso many pianists regard slowing down as equivalent to rubato? It can create an impression of affectation. And too often inner voices and fascinating textures are roundly ignored. 

But when Primakov truly loses himself in the music and lets rip, the effect is marvellous: the Chopin Ballades are full of tenderness and elation, and I love the caressing quality he brings to the loping second theme of the Third. The Scriabin is a triumph. In the right repertoire, this ultra-Romantic artist is certainly one to watch. 


Filming is straightforward, though occasionally the camera lingers too close and too long upon Primakov’s over-emoting facial expressions. The DVD features three audio formats and background information about the pianist, plus photo gallery. Jessica Duchen