WORKS: Three Romances; Theme and Variations in A minor; Potpourri on Themes from the Opera ‘The Voyevoda’
PERFORMER: Dana Protopopescu (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DICD 920521
This is the first in a multi-disc survey of Tchaikovsky’s piano music, a project already undertaken by the quirkily compelling Victoria Postnikova on Erato. Protopopescu’s first volume features some of the opus-less works dotted throughout Tchaikovsky’s creative life. To begin with the composer’s transcriptions of three rather well-known songs was probably a mistake: singing line is not Protopopescu’s greatest strength, though she does surprise us later with striking vocalisation in the ‘Aveu passioné’, reworked from a love scene in Tchaikovsky’s first opera, The Voyevoda. Other melodies from the opera – including one which found a second home in Swan Lake – form the centrepiece in the rough and ready Potpourri. Protopopescu is a little insensitive here with the lovely women’s folksong, then soars surprisingly in the first Adagio (none of the individual Voyevoda numbers are mentioned in some very silly booklet notes).
Other expressive pleasures are fitful both in the music and the performance. The pianist can do little with a very dull theme and fleetingly interesting variations, an apprentice work, though the note of Tchaikovskian intimacy does resurface in a handful of later pieces including an A flat Impromptu with a winsome left-hand melody and an anguished middle section. In moments such as this, Protopopescu’s brittle surface dissolves to reveal surprising sensitivities. David Nice