Ivan Bessonov plays…
Bessonov: Funf Kinderstücke; Prokofiev: Piano Sonata No. 7; Rachmaninov: Études-tableaux, Op. 39 – Nos 1-5; Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker – Suite (arr. Pletnev)
Ivan Bessonov (piano)
Ars Produktion ARS38321 (CD/SACD) 64:43 mins
Prepare to be astonished. Even allowing for the huge technical standards taken for granted today, Ivan Bessonov’s verges on phenomenal. He draws a beautifully rounded sound from the Steinway used in this recording, and the maturity of his searching is remarkable for a pianist still in his late teens. His programme’s opener is a suite from The Nutcracker, arranged by Mikhail Pletnev with a Lisztian level of deft ingenuity. In the ‘March’ the high-speed ascending scales around the main tune pass from the left to the right hand with seamless perfection, while Bessonov’s way with conjuring orchestral colour mesmerises the ear (‘The Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy’ tune really does sound as if played by a celesta).
The first five of Rachmaninov’s Op. 39 set of Études-tableaux (Study-Pictures) are Himalayan peaks of the late-Romantic piano repertoire, often tumultuously demanding. Even at full technical stretch, Bessonov’s ear for bringing out mid-register countermelody is here as impressive as his feeling for atmosphere: the bleak loveliness of the A minor study’s vast, steppe-like musical landscape is hauntingly captured. Bessonov the composer features in his own Five Children’s Pieces – music occupying familiar Schumann-to-Debussy territory, likeable, unpretentious and immaculately written. An eyebrow can be raised at the tempo choice for the Precipitato finale of Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata, whose full weight of momentum can’t quite build at this headlong speed, but the result is a thunderous tour de force nonetheless.