Anna Vinnitskaya performs Brahms Rhapsodies and other solo piano works

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COMPOSERS: Johannes Brahms
LABELS: Alpha
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms
WORKS: Bach: Partita No. 2 in D minor – Chaconne (arr. Brahms); Klavierstücke, Op. 76; Rhapsodies, Op. 79; Fantasies, Op. 116
PERFORMER: Anna Vinnitskaya (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Alpha 231

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Since winning the 2007 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, Anna Vinnitskaya has enjoyed a flourishing career, albeit on mainland Europe rather than in the UK. This, her fifth recording, focuses on some of Brahms’s most craggy, inward-looking and concentrated late piano pieces.

In transcribing Bach’s Chaconne from the solo violin Partita in D minor (1877), Brahms felt that the only way he could reflect the titanic challenges of the solo violin version was to arrange it for one hand only. The tenor-region bias that results gives the piece an even darker hue than it already possessed; the effect is far more austere than Busoni’s full-on virtuoso version, and more sombre even than Bach’s original. Vinnitskaya conveys it with all the conviction, line and power that it needs, everything balanced and well modulated.

Elsewhere, with her emphasis on clarity of texture and purity of tone, Vinnitskaya achieves, at her best, exquisitely calibrated accounts, such as the twilit Intermezzo, Op. 116 No. 4, or the Schumannesque Klavierstück, Op. 76 No. 4. At other times the effect is less consistent: some whimsical rubato allows the B minor Rhapsody Op. 79 No. 1 to threaten to run away with her, and on occasion one would perhaps like an increased intensity of colour, a deeper perspective amid the voicing and a tad more of the elemental around the emotional range.

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Jessica Duchen