Tchaikovsky: Piano Sonata in C sharp minor

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Piano Sonata in C sharp minor
PERFORMER: Beate Berthold (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 7 54550 2 DDD
Postnikova’s set comprises nearly nine hours’ worth of short pieces in typical 19th-century salon style – mainly dances and mood pieces – broken up by only two sonatas (the well-known G major and the posthumously published C sharp minor). One can’t help wishing Tchaikovsky had ventured further into the more ‘symphonic’ genres of piano music, but he was an expert miniaturist and the pieces are often attractive if not consistently memorable (some are familiar from Stravinsky’s borrowings in The Fairy’s Kiss).

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There is plenty of variety among the movements of these sequences and Postnikova’s expressive range encompasses both their drama and their poetry. There are times, though, when her manner seems too big-boned for the context (and her piano’s tone takes on a brash, metallic edge), yet her pianissimos often have a melting, rapt quality and there is also plenty of wit where it’s required.

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Beside this assertiveness, the German pianist Beate Berthold sounds restrained and her tone more monochromatic in the early Tchaikovsky sonata (she dampens down the first movement con fuoco – with fire – with a lethargic tempo), but her playing warms to the more rhapsodic style of the Rachmaninov and Scriabin pieces, among them the former’s Polka de WR and the latter’s Op. 28 Fantaisie. Matthew Rye