Lubimov's dedication of this recording
gives us an insight into his pedigree:
'This album is dedicated to my teachers
and mentors Anna Artobolevskaya, Heinrich
Neuhaus, Lev Naumov and Maria Yudina'.
Lubimov (b. 1944) was one of the great
Neuhaus' last pupils; the name of Maria
Yudina shines brightly in the list,
It shows. This is sterling
pianism. Lubimov clearly feels these
pieces from his innermost being. The
recording, as one might expect from
this source, is of the utmost clarity.
It is close, too, something that suits
the Stravinsky very well. One is drawn
into the animation of the work's beginning.
Lubimov understands the various 'faces'
of the second movement Romanza which
is playful and disjunct against chorale-like
sections that under Lubimov's fingers
carry lovely weight. The 'Rondoletto'
is fast and active but, importantly,
unrushed. In fact it is a joy, with
inner voices interestingly but not self-consciously
brought out. The finale is an oasis
of peace, its delicacy reminiscent of
finest bone china.
There is a backbone
of steel running through the Shostakovich.
Lubimov's echt-Russian technique, with
its characteristic fingers of steel,
emphasises a sense of determination.
There is a real sense of Soviet arrival
at 1'30, and a sense of rightness everywhere,
from the powerhouse moments to passages
of the utmost delicacy. When Shostakovich
uses the barest of two-part textures,
they speak of a loneliness and emptiness
that goes straight to the heart. Nowhere
is the sheer power of the single line
heard to better effect than in the Largo
slow movement (desolate and fragile),
and the evidently huge care injected
into accentuation in the finale is jaw-dropping.
Lubimov is in no hurry in this dark,
uncomporomisingly angular world. Emil
Gilels' 1965 recording (taken down in
Carnegie Hall. RCA Red Seal 09026 63587
2) remains my first preference here
but it is a tribute to Lubimov when
I say it is a very close-run thing indeed.
The Prokofiev Seventh
Sonata pits Lubimov against the famous
Pollini recording on DG. Lubimov begins
mercurially, the ensuing explosive violence
implicit. Perhaps Lubimov triumphs most
in his unapologetic projection of the
isolation of the composing voice. If
his fingerwork is not as steely as Pollini's
and he over-emotes occasionally in the
slow movement - not 100% hypnotic -
his finale certainly has plenty of bite
(although he does not out-Pollini Pollini).
Scriabin's 'Black Mass'
Sonata speaks of a world about as elusive
as they come. Shifts of mood occur frequently
and require quicksilver agility of mind,
something Lubimov is fully up to. Here
Lubimov seems at his most exciting,
perhaps because the music excites his
imagination the most?
This is an absolutely
tremendous disc, from all angles. This
will be one of my Records of the Year,
of that I am sure.