Russian Recital

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky; Rachmaninov; Scriabin; Kreisler
LABELS: ArtistLed
ALBUM TITLE: Russian Recital
WORKS: Tchaikovsky: The Seasons; Rachmaninov: Preludes – selection; Scriabin: Piano Sonata No. 4; Kreisler: Liebesfreud (arr. Rachmaninov)
PERFORMER: Wu Han (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 10701-2

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Wu Has set up the label ‘ArtistLed’ with her partner, the cellist David Finckel (of the Emerson String Quartet), and this is her first solo recording, although it was made six years ago. She plays this Russian repertoire with style and intelligence, allowing the music to speak with an unforced clarity and honesty. The Tchaikovsky is well characterised, and Wu Han is adept at projecting and sustaining a line. Her range of articulation keeps the music alive and her innate poetry brings many rewards. Nevertheless, her range of rhythmic inflection and tonal nuance is limited, so the playing soon becomes rather predictable. Mikhail Pletnev (on Virgin) brings more soul to the reflective pieces and crisper imagery elsewhere. Wu Han conveys these pieces as attractive miniatures, whereas Pletnev convinces us that this is great music. Wu Han brings more colour to her selection of Rachmaninov Preludes. There is some terrific playing here, and although the F sharp minor needs a touch more time and space, the G major is beautifully sung, and the demanding B flat major is impressively despatched. Scriabin’s Fourth Sonata, too, is played with sensitivity and virtuosity. Well recorded, and well worth investigating. Tim Parry