Recorded in the Great
Hall of the Moscow Conservatory in 1996
and released by Bella Musica, this is
one of a number of Elena Kuschnerova’s
discs to have come my way recently.
She is a formidable technician and a
musician of considerable sensitivity.
Thoughts that she might treat the Gounod-Liszt
or the Tchaikovsky Theme and Variations
(why isn’t this programmed more often?)
as mere showpieces prove groundless.
Instead thoughtfulness and a deft ear
for colour inform her recital.
The Tchaikovsky receives
a reading of acutely judged poetry and
also a fair amount of drama. Her chords
are weighted with discrimination and
the finesse of her playing is irreproachable.
Schumann’s Faschingsschwank aus Wien
is lighter and slower than a more
visceral reading, such as the classic
1934 Tagliaferro recording. The Russian
doesn’t produce quite so many timbral
or tonal gradations in the Allegro and
is more deliberate chordally in the
Romanza (where Tagliaferro finds a telling
level of loneliness and introspection).
The older player is far more inclined
to stress verticality in such a reading
whereas Kuschnerova’s lighter sonority
subsumes the potentially disjunctive
left hand. In the Intermezzo Tagliaferro
is much more lively and full of tension
and release. Kuschnerova remains impressive
though, if more equable and less prone
Her Gounod-Liszt is
crisp, well-judged, with her rhythmic
resources fully matched by right hand
tracery; plenty of technique as well.
Her Debussy is attractive; at a tempo
almost exactly that of a Debussy associate,
Daniel Ericourt, her Rêflets
dans l’eau is sensitive. Her Hommage
à Rameau doesn’t hang around
and she is attractive though once again
not especially vertical in the concluding
Mouvement. Some of this is, assuredly,
due to the generally unsympathetic acoustic
– swimmy and echoing. It doesn’t however
manage to blunt her Prokofiev No.3,
a short seven-minute work, which she
attacks with relish, drive, commitment,
no exaggerations and considerable imagination.
I’ve heard her Prokofiev before and
she is clearly a strong interpreter
of his works. Finally there is the sole
example of her Chopin on disc that I’ve
yet heard, a tantalisingly beautiful
Nocturne. I would say on the evidence
of this alone, even in an unfavourable
performance acoustic, that she should
be invited to record a Chopin disc without
delay. I’d be very surprised if this
turned out to be an exaggerated example
of her Chopin playing and I await such
a recording with the keenest interest.
reviews of Elena Kuschnerova recordings