Piano Sonata No. 8; Visions fugitives; Ten Pieces from Romeo and Juliet
Nicholas Angelich (piano)
Erato 9029526768 75:20 mins
Poulenc, quoted in the booklet, described Prokofiev’s own piano playing as having ‘a steel-like sinewy strength’. Nicholas Angelich’s playing here certainly matches this description, and as with his earlier Brahms albums he brings a clear focus to layers of counterpoint and thematic transformations in the Eighth Sonata. But though the notes themselves are scrupulously presented, Angelich is often cavalier with dynamics. The Allegro moderato section which bubbles up from the opening Andante dolce’s piano ending begins distinctly louder, rather than Prokofiev’s required pianissimo start.
Furthermore, Angelich’s semi-quavers are not so much fleet-fingered as despatched with a steely efficiency: the toccata passages of the Sonata’s finale never glitter as they should. And there is nothing of Prokofiev’s insouciant quality to be found either in the Sonata’s second movement (rather lugubrious in Angelich’s hands), or in so many of the Visions fugitives. In the latter, Angelich is sometimes perversely heavy handed, with forte hammering (as in so many of the deep bass notes of ‘Arpa’, or the ending of Allegretto tranquillo) where the music is marked pianissimo.
Angelich’s unrelenting gravitas in the Eighth is more appropriate in the last of the Ten Pieces from Romeo and Juliet, given probably his strongest performance here. Also striking is the unusual but not inappropriate parallel Angelich draws between the ‘Juliet as a Young Girl’ and the Sonata. If only he had made the start of that piece rather less hard and efficient, and transferred some of its more tender and playful qualities to the Eighth.