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Oh! Chante encore!
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Eugene Onegin - Polonaise (1879, arr. Liszt) [6:11]; Berceuse, Op. 16 No. 1 (1872, arr. Pabst) [4:55]; Oh! Chante encore!, Op. 16 No. 4 (1872) [4:04]; Qu’importe, Op. 16 No. 5 (1872, both arr. composer) [3:31]; The Seasons, Op. 37 (1873-76) [42:43]; Dumka, Op. 59 (1886) [10:23]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Piano Sonata, Op. 24/J138 (1812) - Perpetuum mobile (arr. Tchaikovsky 1871) [4:37];
Lev Vincour (piano).
rec. Fürstliche Reitbahn Bad Arolsen, 25-26 March 2006. DDD



Surprisingly for an SACD, the initial impression of this disc is of a rather muffled sound in the mid-range. The top register, however, is appropriately bright, even a touch too much so. The brightness certainly fits the explosive Polonaise which opens the programme, and Leningrad-trained Vincour does enjoy himself, even within the constraints of the studio. Technical considerations matter little. He played Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto with the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra under Mravinsky at the age of thirteen!. It is interesting that melting lyricism is also part of Vincour’s talents, as the gentle Berceuse and the arrangement of Op. 16 No. 4 - from which the disc gets its name - clearly show. There is just the tiniest of suspicions of literalness in the inner voices of the latter, though. Que j’importe is hardly any less lovely, but with an element of play that is most appealing.

The Perpetuum mobile is extremely famous. Tchaikovsky arranges it so that the roles of the two hands are reversed. Vincour meets the challenge head-on but is just a tad studio-bound. Hints of a lightness that would befit Mendelssohn are not fully realised. 

The Seasons is possibly Tchaikovsky’s most frequently recorded work for solo piano. Avaliani on Pavane can be quickly dispensed with; fans of Pletnev should find little to quarrel with in his traversal, however. Vincour can hold his head up high, for he captures the melancholy at the heard of this cycle excellently. Only February - an Allegro giusto in D major - is laboured, while June suffers from some clanginess towards the end. Yet one can easily enjoy the ‘horns’ of September and December’s delightful Waltz. These pieces are arguably Tchaikovsky at his most Schumannesque in terms of perfectly-crafted miniatures. Fascinating listening. 

Finally, the Dumka, is here imbued with fine fantasy and assured virtuoso playing. Again there is the feeling of the studio-bound, though. One feels that live, Vincour would throw caution more to the wind.

A mixed reaction, then. Fine if not demonstration class recording meets fine if not exhibition class playing. 

Colin Clarke



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