Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Mussorgsky,Prokofiev,Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Dutton
WORKS: Sonata No. 7 in B flat
PERFORMER: Ingrid Jacoby (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDSA 6802
What would induce a not-very-well-known pianist to record three of the most widely played works in the whole piano repertoire, Russian or otherwise? Ingrid Jacoby is an American-born pianist now resident in London and no longer exactly a debutante. In Prokofiev’s most popular sonata, she is up against overwhelming competition, whether you prefer the spitfire character of Argerich, or the massively serious, coldly objective approach of Peter Donohoe, who gives the music a sense of unassailable stature. Jacoby plays decently enough, but she is neither electrifying on the one hand, nor mentally powerful on the other. Frankly, she’s boring, despite her indulgently slow tempo in the relaxed middle movement. Here, at least, she justifies the composer’s ‘caloroso’ marking.

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Yet there’s little real warmth in the rest of her playing, and even a ruthless quality in the way she drives through Tchaikovsky’s winsome ‘Snowdrop’. The Barcarolle is too slow, and while ‘Harvest Song’ is fine, it lacks the giddy excitement of Pletnev.

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Horowitz was critical of Mussorgsky’s piano-writing and recorded his own edition of Pictures. Despite Horowitz’s strictures, Mussorgsky still presented bravura pianists with plenty of challenges as well as opportunities to suggest orchestral colours much more vivid than those of Hartmann’s anaemic graphic works which inspired the cycle. Alas, Jacoby gives no more than an average good performance and with her hard touch, promenading round this show begins to feel like a chore. For real poetry in ‘The Old Castle’, dizzy excitement in ‘Limoges’, and fury in ‘Baba-Yaga’, the pianist to go for is Yakov Kasman. Adrian Jack