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Vassos Nicolaou: Etudes; Frames

Tamara Stefanovich, Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano) (Pentatone)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Vassos Nicolaou
Etudes; Frames*
Tamara Stefanovich, *Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano)
Pentatone PTC 5187 041   57:01 mins


Whether it is the desperate upward scurrying in ‘Anodos’ or the complex inner voicing – using both sustain and sostenuto pedals – of ‘Point de jonction’, Tamara Stefanovich brings Vassos Nicolaou’s weird and wonderful soundworld to life with vivid precision. Pianist and composer have collaborated since they were students, and most of the etudes in this recording are dedicated to Stefanovich, including the bell-like ‘Animadóttir’, experimental rhythmic work ‘Entrap’ and ‘Point de jonction’, written in 2013 as a 40th birthday present. Cypriot Nicolaou’s percussive – sometimes abrasive – style recalls Ligeti’s etudes, but there is also a strong character element too. ‘Monologos’ suggests an actor giving a monologue to an empty stage, interrupted by imaginary applause (short pulsing harmonies).

Few can match Stefanovich’s capabilities when it comes to modern repertoire, except, perhaps, her partner Pierre-Laurent Aimard. He makes a guest appearance on this album in Frames, a four-hand piece commissioned by Klavier-Festival Ruhr to mark the couple’s wedding in 2017. Stefanovich and Aimard, who often perform together, create pianistic vignettes; the tinkling, upper-octave theme references their then-young son.


Claire Jackson