LABELS: Opus 111
WORKS: The Seasons; Theme and Variations; Dumka
PERFORMER: Olga Tverskaya (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: OPS 30-304
Not even the most flag-waving Tchaikovskian would claim that The Seasons, as a whole, finds him anywhere near his greatest. That said, though, there are many flashes of great charm, memorable poignancy and characteristically Slavic dash – but they offer us a tray of hors d’oeuvres rather than a main course and are best sampled selectively (their original target was players not audiences). Brownridge and Tverskaya (the latter playing on an Erard of 1867) are highly persuasive, impressively equipped advocates and both can be highly recommended. For me, the period piano is often more distracting than enlightening, but that’s my problem, not Tverskaya’s. Either disc would make an excellent introduction to these pieces, but neither, for my money, achieves the interpretative and pianistic wizardry of the more idiosyncratic Mikhail Pletnev in Philips’s ‘Great Pianists of the Century’ series.
Where the Sonata is concerned, Brownridge delivers a performance of outstanding quality – authoritative, technically commanding and far- seeing. It says something that one can listen to her recording and compare it favourably with Sviatoslav Richter’s 1958 account on Melodiya. True, that recording doesn’t give us Richter at his most transcendent, and the acoustic isn’t great even by 1958 standards, but for years it was as close as we’d got to a ‘definitive’ recording. Bar by bar, Brownridge emerges unscathed from the comparison, though neither she nor Richter quite matches the nail-biting tension, sharpness of rhythmic definition and colouristic range that Anton Kuerti brings to it, as part of an altogether brilliant recital of Russian music on Analekta. Jeremy Siepmann