Aureole etc.




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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

FEATURE REVIEW

Nina Milkina (1919- )

Chopin 24 Preludes, Opus 28
(recorded at Bishopsgate in 1977)

Chopin The Complete Mazurkas
(recorded at the Wigmore Hall in 1970)

Nina Milkina at the Wigmore Hall
Piano Works by Bach, Scarlatti, Haydn, Mozart, Chopin, Scriabin, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev
(recordings from the 1970s)

UNTERSCHRIFT CLASSICS (originally released on LPs by Pye Records)
Can be obtained from alex@sedgwickphoto.com


When I first came to England in 1972 as a Leeds Competition prize winner, Nina Milkina's name was soon known to me as a sort of legendary presence. She was one of those pianists within the profession who was held in enormous esteem by her fellow pianists. Yet she was not one of the 'flavors of the month' who was being paraded around the big concert halls of Europe, and one rarely had the opportunity to actually hear her. So my joy was all the greater when I first heard bits and pieces of the Pye recordings she made on LPs in the 1970s. At that time, I particularly remember the Chopin Mazurkas and a ravishing Mozart K.576. But it wasn't until I heard her in person in early 1983 that I realized the unique integrity, warmth, simplicity and depth of this wonderful artist. I believe it was at the memorial service for Sir Clifford Curzon, whom I had also known very well, where Nina gave a truly unforgettable rendition of the B minor Mozart Adagio. It was hauntingly beautiful, and most apt for this very special occasion. At the time, I also reflected on the many conversations I had had with Sir Clifford during his last years, and he often repeated his admiration for Nina Milkina and felt that she was not properly appreciated by the British, let alone the international, public. Sometime during that period, I got to know Nina, and with great temerity asked her to listen to me (I played the fourth Partita of Bach). I went away walking on air, so to speak - but that might also have had to do with the lovely Cabernet that her husband, Alistair, served up at dinner following the lesson!! Nina was the epitome of charm and culture, but her professionalism and dedication to every note of that score was an extension of a continually searching musical personality, and this is a lesson I've have never forgotten.

One can only imagine my joy when I learned a few months ago that many of the old LPs have now reappeared on CD, and can be obtained from her son, Alex Sedgwick, at the following address:

alex@sedgwickphoto.com

Within a short space of time, I was once again enthralled by this captivating artist. Nina is one of those people whom you can't not listen to. Put more simply, one feels compelled to listen to every note, whether or not one agrees with it. Readers of this column who also know my own playing will realize that there are two very different musical personalities here, and it is only natural and logical that Nina and I should sometimes arrive at different conclusions about certain works. Yet, time and time again, I feel drawn to that enormous integrity mentioned previously, an inner strength and power of communication that are irresistible, something which only the greatest artists have. The felicities within these CDs are many - some of the greatest Scarlatti sonatas (here, a selection of 12) I've ever heard, a wonderful Haydn E minor. And then there are those Mazurkas, which I think easily rank with Rubinstein's set from the 1930s and far surpass those of many other pianists. And, while I feel quite differently about many of them, I find her Preludes logical and beautifully conceived from first note to last.

I'm sure that readers of this page will want to acquire these discs of this distinguished and wonderful artist.

Craig Sheppard

Seattle
March 19, 2003



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