Ella ADA¤EWSKY (1846ľ1926)
24 Preludes, for voice and piano - Book I (1903-07) [23:36]
24 Preludes, for voice and piano - Book II (1903-07) [24:33]
Gavotte, for piano [2:22]
Sarabande, for piano [2:43]
Air Rococo avec Doubles, for piano [3:28]
Berceuse Estonienne, for voice and piano (1895) [3:48]
Berceuse Estonienne, for violin and piano (c.1895) [2:54]
Claudia Grimaz (soprano)
Andrea Rucli (piano)
Lucio Degani (violin)
rec. Santa Maria di Corte church, Cividale del Friuli, Italy, 20-21 September 2009. DDD
DYNAMIC CDS 633 [63:24]

Ada´ewsky is the musical pseudonym of Elisabeth Schultz, later von Schultz and sometimes (von) Schultz-Ada´ewsky, occasionally Russianised as Elizaveta, but always shortened to Ella in Russian and German! Grove Music Online gives her surname as "Adayevskaya", a typical Russian feminine form of the male-denoting original, but, as a German website dedicated to her memory points out, this is wrong: Schultz chose the masculine form on purpose, and published her music under it.

Ada´ewsky's mother was German, her father of German stock based in the Baltics, but she herself was born in St Petersburg, and was taught from an earlier age by Adolf Henselt and later Anton Rubinstein. She travelled widely as a concert pianist, mixed in the best literary circles, and eventually gained recognition as a musicologist, specialising in folk music. Meanwhile she wrote a fair amount of music, including two operas whilst still in her twenties and a Clarinet Sonata in 1881 using quarter tones.

The most important work here is the two books of Preludes for voice and piano, settings of texts by Ada´ewsky's young nephew Benno Geiger (1882-1965) on themes of solitude and family nostalgia. Their most obvious antecedent is Brahms, or at times FaurÚ, but their lyrical originality is immediately self-evident - Ada´ewsky is no mere imitator or dilettante, but rather an imaginative composer with a fantastic ear for wistful melody, yearning harmony and lilting rhythm.

Claudia Grimaz has a decent voice, though its nasal quality, or slight reediness, will not endear it to every listener. Her intonation and phrasing are not faultless by any means, but the infractions are small in number and far enough separated for this to amount to a minor consideration only. Though her biographical notes omit to mention it, of greater significance is the fact that she is a Friulian speaker, and though she clearly has had some training in German, her ability to perform in that unforgiving language is compromised by her accent, which is thick enough at times to make it difficult to understand exactly what she is singing. She does enough perhaps to fool a non-speaker of German, but anyone with any familiarity with the language will be hard pressed to avoid wincing altogether.

Andrea Rucli's piano is far more convincing, and Ada´ewsky's delightful neo-Baroque piano miniatures, the Gavotte, Sarabande and especially the Air Rococo commend themselves far more straightforwardly to the general listener, as does the dreamy, almost naive Berceuse Estonienne, here given in two of the five arrangements Ada´ewsky made for it - the violin part attractively played by Lucio Degani in one, and Grimaz sounding more convincing in Estonian than in German in the other.

Dynamic's booklets are usually less than perfect, but this one is pretty good, with plenty of information and detail, even if the rhetoric is sometimes exaggerated. The translation into English does have a few odd turns of phrase, such as "the abolition of slavery for the serves [sic] of the glebe", for "the abolition of serfdom" - all the more surprising for a rendering carried out by an apparently native speaking 'Timothy Shaw'. The biggest regret is surely the absence of song texts - copyright surely cannot be an issue.

Though the microphones do seem to get moved around a bit, sound quality is nonetheless very good - almost too good for a church setting!

Byzantion
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk

Ada´ewsky is no mere imitator or dilettante, but rather an imaginative composer with a fantastic ear for wistful melody, yearning harmony and lilting rhythm.