> Katerina Assimis Promotional Disc [JW]: Classical Reviews- April2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992)
Vingt Regards sur L’Enfant Jesus No 15 Le baiser
Sergey RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Prelude Op 23 No 4
Prelude Op 32 No 5
Ludwig Van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Sonata Op 31 No2 Tempest
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Sonata Op 23 in F sharp minor
Katerina Assimis, piano
Recorded 2001 unspecified location
PROMOTIONAL RECORD No catalogue number [67.34]

You may be able to obtain a copy for a token fee to cover expenses from Ms Assimis Katpno@aol.com

There is something of a Russian feel to this programme by the London pianist of Greek parentage, Katerina Assimis. The Russian tint is in the repertoire, obviously, but more in the Golden Age of Russian pianism contour of the disc. With the exception of the Messiaen this is the kind of recital the titans of the Moscow School would have performed in the 1920s and 30s.

There’s not much bloom around the sound – no comforting halo – and this can accentuate a tendency to clangorous playing especially in the climaxes. It also tends to flatten out Assimis’s dynamics to detrimental effect. Clarity is the hallmark of her playing. This can be impressive in the Messiaen where her structural decision-making is alert and intelligent. In the two Rachmaninov Preludes, one each from Op 23 and 32, comparison with Peter Katin, say, in Op 32/5 shows that at a somewhat faster tempo – 2’57 to Assimis’s 3’23 – he evinces a rather greater sense of linear narrative and his inflexions tend to keep the line moving with the greater compulsion. In the challenge of the Tempest Sonata she is again clear and lucid in her approach. In some senses this is anti-Schnabelian playing – it’s slower with a shallow bass line, opening with a profound sense of musical strain and a holding back, rhythmically. Some may miss Schnabel’s frankness, his impetuous freshness but if this seems too Olympian a comparison – let’s never forget that EMI first considered Rachmaninov for recording the 32 Sonatas; they got Schnabel because he was cheaper – then it’s also true that an entirely different aesthetic is involved. In the slow movement, for instance, Assimis uses a lot of pedal and heavy staccato – she doesn’t activate the treble run legato but treats each note in isolation. In the Allegretto finale she sustains the tempo well – far more difficult to sustain this slower tempo than a simple allegro and there is none of Schnabel’s stabbing bass notes and none of the rise and fall of his rubato. In the concluding Scriabin Sonata her eyes are also correspondingly dry. It’s not an unfeeling performance but it is one of reserved tonal contrasts.

Jonathan Woolf


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