WORKS: Night on the Bare Mountain; Études-tableaux (excerpts); Islamey
PERFORMER: Boris Berezovsky (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-96516-2 DDD
Balakirev’s Islamey is, to many pianists, an irresistible challenge, yet only its technical difficulty redeems its flat-footed repetitiveness as a composition. Ravel wrote Gaspard to surpass its pianistic hurdles, and having made a superb recording of that, Berezovsky now sets a new standard with the Balakirev.
He’s also pretty nifty in Konstantin Tchernov’s effective transcription of Rimsky-Korsakov’s version of Mussorgsky’s vision of a witches’ night out. But the real musical treats of his latest disc come in the much subtler pieces by Liadov and Medtner. Berezovsky’s playing is infinitely delicate and effortless, his fingertips like charms barely needing to touch the sounds. Inna Poroshina has a tinny piano to contend with, so the sounds cannot melt.
This is fatal for Liadov’s beautifully made pieces, which owe much to Chopin and inhabit the same world as Scriabin’s early music. Poroshina speeds up, slows down, gets softer, then louder, but the music still feels brittle, and that’s not wholly, or even mostly, her fault – and is certainly not Liadov’s.
There isn’t very much of this composer’s piano music available on disc, though several pianists, including Shura Cherkassky and Stephen Hough, recorded A Musical Snuffbox, which isn’t entirely typical; as a sample of Liadov’s refined art, this very enjoyable selection at least fills a gap. Adrian Jack