This is the welcome second volume in Tahra’s restorative
the art of pianist Youra Guller. The first
in the series gave me the opportunity briefly to reflect on her biography,
and you can pursue the matter there if you like, but if you wish to be even more
deeply enmeshed in her life and art you can also listen to the recordings contained
in another Tahra
a new series of theirs devoted to French pianists: a fine one too.
One is aware that Guller has her detractors. I don’t know if this release
would mollify them or cause them to modify their opinions but it does contain
two major pianistic statements by which to judge her playing, albeit she was
already sixty three when she set down the Beethoven Concerto in 1958 for Radio
Suisse Romande. Here she gives us a generous but precise mediation, not out of
scale but not standoffish either. There is scalar clarity, an assured cadenza
and then a dramatic pianissimo - secretive, hesitant, suggestive. Ansermet’s
oboist has a plaintive, small reed kind of sound, so these two sonorities and
approaches work well together. The slow movement is warm but not cloyingly over-sentimentalised.
It’s also not the Olympian dichotomy it can be with others, nor again an
attempt at coalescing the two such as is sometimes attempted. The finale meanwhile
is strong, spirited and unaffected.
The other major work is Schumann’s Etudes Symphoniques.
find a performance of combative power, chordal weight but also considerable poetry.
Instances of her rushing bars - as she could - are rare, and though there are
one or two mishits, generally speaking her technical apparatus is good. Above
all there is a serious narrative thread running through the music making, illuminated
by colouristic shading, great energy and drive too. It’s a performance
of fearless commitment.
makes an entertaining solo encore. Unbashful, it glitters almost
to the point of tonal hardness, if not brittleness (in truth it goes beyond those
points) and Guller makes no attempt to corral her playing into a curvaceous even-handed
tonal paella. This is a ‘take it or leave it’ performance and, exacerbated
by the hard recording, certainly makes its point.
Drama-laced performances that show how combative Guller could be even well into