Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


The Sirota Archives: Rare Russian Masterpieces
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Sonata in G Op.37 (1878)
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)

Près du Ruisseau
Prelude in F
Polonaise in E flat minor
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)

Sonata No.1 in B flat minor Op.74 (1901)
Leo Sirota (piano)
Recorded in April-May 1955
ARBITER 110 [75.37]

Arbiter has a knack of turning up pianists who gravitated to foreign fields. Their Tiegerman release showcased a formidable talent who had left Europe for Egypt. Now we have Leo Sirota (1885-1965), born in the Russian Ukraine, who studied under Busoni in Vienna and who later settled in Tokyo. Itís quite clear that he was a formidably equipped pianist, or had been in his earlier days. His personality seems also to have been warm and his musicianship is correspondingly frank and frequently explosive. These live broadcasts are in pretty reasonable shape and form part of a cache of surviving tapes Ė 30 hours of radio recitals Ė which has lasting documentary value.

In this first volume devoted to Sirota Arbiter presents him in his native literature. The Tchaikovsky opens with intense drama; itís romantic, occasionally wayward, with flurries of wrong notes along the way. His approach to tempo rubato is also distinctive Ė and occasionally more than a little disjunctive. But this is big playing, personality playing and in the slow movement he can spin a most attractive lyric line, growing increasingly ardent, albeit he does make the most of unmarked accelerandi in true Romantic tradition. Purists and score readers will doubtless be offended. Itís best to pass over the blustery and out of control Scherzo to reach the finale, which is passionate, driving, capricious and occasionally eviscerating.

The head of the Imperial Conservatory in St Petersburg, where Sirota had studied, had been Glazunov and itís surely appropriate that Sirota plays his Sonata in B flat minor. Glazunov may even have written it whilst Sirota was still a student there. Doubly interesting. Thereís some leonine phrasing in the opening movement, romantic tracery as well, and some trademark rubati Ė along with some very sticky moments at the climax. I admired the strong expressive curve of the Andante, the lyrical cantilever Sirota imparts and his fascinating tone. But, as with the Tchaikovsky scherzo, there were some things he was simply no longer able to cope with technically at the age of seventy and the Glazunov finale is one of them; splashy is not the word for it. Of the Rubinstein morceaux I liked his intense, outsize Prelude in F and the powerful bass in the Polonaise. Heís fearfully tempestuous in the Valse-caprice with a lot of pedal, wrong notes and a volcanic atmosphere generally.

The notes are full and historically informed with attractive photographs and memorabilia. Iíll be reviewing a couple more Sirota discs in this series and I can tell you that his driving musicianship is just as apparent in those discs as it is here.

Jonathan Woolf

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