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Nadia Reisenberg - 100th Anniversary Tribute
Dmitri KABALEVSKY (1904-1987)
Twenty-Four Preludes Op.38 (1943) [46.05]
Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Twelve Pieces for Piano Op.40 (1878) [40.53]
Romance in F minor Op.5 (1868) [5.19]
Nocturne Op.10 No.1 (1872) [4.12]
Humoresque Op.10 No.2 (1872) [2.39]
Souvenir de Hapasal Op.2 (1867) [11.54]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Elegie Op.3 No.1 (1892) [5.41]
Prelude in C sharp minor Op.3 No.2 (1892)   [3.52]
Melodie in E major Op.3 No.3 (1892)  [5.01]
Serenade in B flat minor Op3 No. 5(1892)  [3.31]
Polka de W.R (1911) [3.48]
Waltz in A major Op.10 No.2 (1893-94) [3.57]
Barcarolle in G major Op.10 No.3 (1893-94)  [4.28]
Mazurka in D flat major Op.10 No.7 (1893-94) [5.34]
Nadia Reisenberg (piano)
Recorded on Westminster LPs between June 1954 and May 1955
IVORY CLASSICS 74002 [75.44 + 74.15]


I’ve already had the pleasure of reviewing Reisenberg’s Haydn recordings on Ivory. For a brief synopsis of her biography and a more detailed analysis of her approach to Haydn try - (though better still read the detailed booklet notes provided by this company with photographs and exemplary detail). Here we have her Russian repertoire in recordings made for Westminster in 1954 and 1955 at pretty much the same time she made the Haydn sides.

Once again there can be no cause for complaint about the playing and musicianship  – vibrant, rhythmically alive and full of colouristic warmth. The Kabalevsky 24 Preludes were written during the War and explore the major and minor keys in emulation of one or two more prestigious undertakings down the centuries but Kabalevsky based his thematic material on native folk songs. Most therefore are short – some pithy – but all are enjoyable, bright and sympathetically laid out. She takes the second firmly and briskly whilst bringing out the left hand melody line (that changes hands) in the vivace third. The compressed and big-boned fifth has plenty of colour and drive whilst Ravelian hints shadow the slow eighth. Other influences are perhaps the Mussorgskian inheritance that illuminates the grave tenth – chordally powerful, very well characterised by Reisenberg (she makes a real distinction between tones and mood in each) and with a pin point treble. The playful marcato fifteenth shows that not all is doom and gloom with its fanciful children’s profile and the rather Rachmaninovian eighteenth has a noble façade. There are traces of Iberian feroce in the last of the Preludes, much the longest of all the twenty-four but its lyrical episodes sum up the cycle as a whole – entertaining, reflective, animated. This was the kind of literature that attracted Horowitz who recorded some of the set but not, so far as I know, the whole cycle.

Similar qualities of distinction apply to the Tchaikovsky pieces; these are richly presented. Listen to the tonal gradations of the third of the Op.40 set, the funeral march, and its crisp rhythm. Or try the characterisation of the Mazurka and the folkloric charm of Au village. Reisenberg was clearly a subtle humorist if the hobble-toed gait of her Scherzo (Op.40 No.3) is anything to go by but her refinement is best appreciated in the stellar performance of the Romance in F minor, and her Gothic imagination is inspired by the first of Souvenir de Hapasal, a very early work with a creepy and atmospheric Ruined Castle. We also have powerful evidence of her excellence as a Rachmaninovian. The Prelude in C sharp minor may be ubiquitous, then perhaps more even than now, but she vests it with real power. Her rhythm in Polka de W.R is splendid and what drive she gives to the Mazurka Op.10 No.7 – hot stuff.

So the playing is splendid by anyone’s standard and as I’ve indicated the notes are terrific. Some problems emerge in the actual recordings. Some of the smaller Tchaikovsky pieces suffer from a clangourous recording and there’s some shatter in the fortes of Op.40. I should also mention the endemic tape hiss, to which you will easily get used but which will be initially problematic. But let’s hope there are more treasures in the Reisenberg vaults – this is a worthy and valuable 100th anniversary tribute.

Jonathan Woolf



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