Leoš JANÁCEK (1854-1928)
In the Mists (V mlhách) (1912) [15:53]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Sonata in A minor, D 784 (1823) [23:07]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Tre Sonetti di Petrarca from Années de Pčlerinage – Deuxičme Année: Italie (1842-46, revised 1864-82):
Sonetto 47: Benedetto sia ’l giorno [6:02]
Sonetto 104: Pace non trovo [6:44]
Sonetto 123: I’ vidi in terra angelici costumi [6:53]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Prelude in D major, Op. 23, No. 4 (1903) [4:35]
Prelude in G major, Op. 32, No. 5 (1910) [2:49]
Moments Musicaux, Op. 16 (1896):
No. 3 in B minor [4:09]
No. 4 in E minor [3:14]
Ivana Gavric (piano)
rec. Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, UK, 6 July 2009 (Schubert, Liszt) and 7 December 2009 (Janácek, Rachmaninov)

This debut recording of Sarajevo-born pianist Ivana Gavric demonstrates an extraordinary talent in a program offering both real substance and variety. The highlight of the disc, though, is not the work of the album’s title, In the Mists. While the pianist is making Janácek something of a specialty — according to the notes she is taking up residency at the Banff Centre in Canada to study and perform the works of the Moravian master — the thing that impresses most here is her Schubert. Her Janácek, as exemplified here by the suite In the Mists, is dramatic and extrovert. She seems to be treating the work as if it were one of his great operas or string quartets, but the piano works — barring the Sonata — are more impressionistic and introverted. A comparison with one of Rudolf Firkušný’s recordings (either RCA or DG) is telling. He treats In the Mists much more subtly and inwardly, whereas Gavric is all drama by employing bold rubato throughout the work. I have no complaint with her pianism as such, but sometimes less is more, and for my taste she overpowers the work. I have no reservations, whatsoever, about the rest of the disc.

Turning to the Schubert one finds not only sterling piano playing but also an interpretation that encompasses all the qualities one looks for in Schubert, from the most dramatic to the most lyrical. Her performance of this A minor Sonata convinces me that the work is every bit as great as the more famous Sonata in B flat, D 960. Her playing is more straightforward than in the Janácek and the rubato is much more subtle, too. She can be very powerful in the Allegro giusto (first movement) exposition and through much of the moto perpetuo finale, while melting one’s heart in the beautiful second subject of the first movement and in the slow movement where she relaxes nicely. The actual piano sound here and indeed throughout the program is also wonderful — big and bold when necessary, but also toned down in the quiet passages with a warmth that is beguiling. This performance for me is worth the price of admission.

The other works on the CD also come off well, even if they seem somewhat anticlimactic after the Schubert. Gavric has the measure of the Liszt Sonnets with all the virtuosity and romantic feeling you could wish for. With the Rachmaninov there is an interesting contrast between the composer of the very Russian Moments Musicaux and the occasionally Chopinesque preludes. For the latter she has chosen two of the most lyrical, especially the G major Prelude. The Moments Musicaux, on the other hand, bring to mind the composer of the piano concertos. They are very Russian in sound and the E minor one is fast and virtuosic. I noticed something unusual, though, in this work: Rachmaninov seems to be recalling earlier masters in the E minor Moment. At about 0:40-0.55 there appears to be reference to the last movement of Grieg’s Piano Concerto and this is followed by a run that closely resembles one in the finale of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 2, No.1. These references appear again around 2:20-2:45. Was he paying homage, or was it merely coincidental? In any case, the performances here leave nothing to be desired.

Based on this disc, then, we have another new pianist to challenge the masters of the past. I would definitely like to hear more of her Schubert and also what she might do in Beethoven. At any rate, I am certain that we will be hearing more from her in the future. I should also point out that the notes to the CD were written by Ivana Gavric and one Jeremy Bines, whom she thanks in her introduction for his support and encouragement in making this recording. The notes are detailed and descriptive, and provide — in addition to the historical background of each work — a real sense of what is going on beyond the musical notes themselves.

Leslie Wright

This debut recording of Ivana Gavric showcases a major talent.