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Sound Samples


Alfred SCHNITTKE (1934-1998)
Five Aphorisms (1990) [11:47]
Sonata for Piano No.3 (1992) [15:34]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Well-Tempered Clavier - Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor Book 1 BWV 849 (1722) [6:31]
French Suite No.5 in G major BWV 816 (c.1724) [18:43]
Svetlana Ponomarëva (piano)
rec. CBC Studio One, Vancouver, July 2008 
MV PRODUCTIONS [No number] [52:42]
Experience Classicsonline

The conjunction of Schnittke and Bach is not an obvious one but works fruitfully in this disc. Those who consider Schnittke’s Third Sonata too pessimistic and the Five Aphorisms too elliptical will find that the juxtaposition works less well but that’s not my experience.
The Five Aphorisms are concise, elusive but never vapid. The first is a Moderato assai and by some way the most extensive. Its elliptical gravity is finely established here and Svetlana Ponomarëva’s colouristic evocation is consistently impressive. Similarly she brings out the skittish albeit wintry spirit of the second Aphorism with its plangent chordal moments of contrast. The rather unsettled central Lento is taken at a mobile tempo and the final movement, a Grave, has a stark Tarkovskian quality to it. Throughout one finds that Ponomarëva takes quicker tempi than, say, Boris Berman on his Chandos disc (CHAN9704). It brings a rather nervier, edgier, less settled quality to the music making and suits it equally well.
The Third Sonata is a brooding and ultimately ambiguous work cast in four movements. Once again she tends to be somewhat faster than Berman – though I’ve not heard Igor Tchetuev’s set of the complete sonatas (Caro Mitis SACD CM 0092004) nor Ragna Schirmer’s Berlin Classics traversals (0017292BC). The measured unease of the opening Lento gives way to a Scherzo of almost post-Mussorgskian hues in places, though the biting insistence and cluster terseness is Schnittke’s own. Sanguine power is evoked in the slow movement and a brooding, reflective quality ensures that the sonata ends in unresolved tension. It’s the Allegro that really separates this performance from Berman’s – we find that Ponomarëva is just that much more biting.
Her G major French Suite is attractively voiced, and played with clarity and poise. It’s neither as zippy (in the Courante) nor as romantically orientated (in the Sarabande) as, say, Andrei Gavrilov, to take another Russian performer as a point of contrast. Ponomarëva’s slight reserve however doesn’t preclude expressive commitment and she shows a sure affinity for the direction of the music-making. The single example of the Prelude and Fugue reveals a perhaps slightly over-clipped Fugue.
Fine sound quality informs this interesting release. The notes are suitably Schnittke-esque.
Jonathan Woolf  


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