Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Etudes-tableaux Op.33 (1911) [21:18]
Etudes-tableaux Op.39 (1916-17) [39:09]
Vocalise Op.34 No.14 transcribed by Earl Wild [6:46]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Liebesleid, transcribed by Sergei Rachmaninoff [4:26]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Flight of the Bumble Bee, transcribed by Sergei Rachmaninoff [1:17]
Barbara Nissman (piano)
rec. August 2006, Mary Pappert School of Music, PNC Bank Recital Hall, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh
PIERIAN PIR0031 [72:59]
There is some mighty impressive playing in volume two of Barbara Nissman’s Rachmaninoff series from Pierian. A formidably equipped player she has both the technical and tonal chops for this unforgiving repertoire, and proves to have a comprehensively successful take on the music, excelling in both the Op.33 and the Op.39 sets.
Her sense of evocation is paramount in establishing the tenor of these performances. Her musical instincts veer away from too imposed a series of rubati. She refuses to colour or to pedal too extravagantly either so you will not hear a wash of virtuosity. Instead you will just hear virtuosity. As indeed you will hear true musical acuity. Her rubati in the C major Op.33 Etudes-tableaux are, therefore, far less extreme than those of Horowitz in his live Washington DC 1967 performance, to take one august comparison. But this is not in any way to imply a metrical and inflexible approach to rhythm, rather to state that her narratives - and her sense of musical narrative is strong - are not derailed by extraneous matters. Similarly her voicings in the E flat minor of the same set are powerful, not least those incursive left hand voicings, and here the stormy blast and saturnine torrent of the music are equally strongly conveyed.
If one turns to the composer in, say, the A minor of the Op.39 set one does hear an awesome accumulation of tension, a grand use of dynamics and a sense of engulfing dynamism. Nissman however is powerful and propulsive in her own way - and consistently so throughout both sets, which is one of the greatest virtues of her performance. I don’t sense any slaking or slackening of enthusiasm for any of these Etudes-tableaux on her part.
She adds three encores. There’s a frisky bumble bee, a warmly argued Kreisler Liebesleid and an ardent Vocalise in the Earl Wild transcription.
Pierian make a point of noting that no compression was used in the recording so that one needs to listen at a higher than normal dynamic level; in other words, turn up the volume. It works well and the colouristic range is wide and handsome, befitting these fine performances.
Jonathan Woolf