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 - http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2003/Mar03/NadiaReisenberg.htm
(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
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
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.
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