for £13.50 postage paid World-wide.
Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL
Piano Sonata No.3 in F minor, Op.20 (c.1807) [17:04]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Fantasy in C minor, K.475 (1785) [9:28]
Piano Sonata in F major, K.332 (1783) [14:42]
Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL
Fantasy after Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, Op.124 [5:48]
Andante with Variations, Op.82 (1841) [8:52]
Daria Gloukhova (piano)
rec. November 2009, State House of Radio Broadcasting and Recording,
CENTAUR CRC3080 [55:54]
This is the first recording of the young and promising pianist
Daria Gloukhova. Her technique may be not perfect yet, but she
brings a vision, which means quite a lot. The pianist declared
a personal crusade to revive attention to the music of the “lesser
names”, as well as to less known works of the “big names”. A
demonstration of this is a big tattoo on her left shoulder,
showing Hummel’s name and years of life. Yes, a real tattoo.
Personally, I find this a bit drastic, but I must admit it goes
well with her “gothic”, dramatic looks and performing manner.
On Gloukhova’s site one can see a similar tattoo on her right
shoulder, with Schumann’s name and dates, and this may hint
at the direction of her future recordings. More predilections,
if exist, are not shown on the photos.
Johann Nepomuk Hummel belongs to the unfortunate cohort of composers
that lived between Mozart and Beethoven, and inevitably suffered
the unfavorable comparisons. Not going as far as tattoos, I
nevertheless agree with Gloukhova on one point: if these composers
are eclipsed by these two giants, it does not mean that they
are inferior to composers who did not live under the shadow
and have thus enjoyed a “fairer” assessment. Hummel’s sonata
combines Mozart’s clarity with proto-Romantic drama and echoes
of the Sturm und Drang. The first movement opens with
a memorable, longing theme. The second subject is more Classical,
a light-and-shadow motif. Hummel was an excellent pianist and
knew how to write for the public. The development is stormy
and dramatic, and the coda is grandiose. The piano assumes an
almost concertante role; I wonder whether Chopin knew this sonata
when he wrote his First Concerto.
The second movement is Adagio maestoso in a buttoned-up
major: stately, unhurried, like the slow movement of Beethoven’s
Pathétique. Gradually steam is gathered with a feeling
of heroic importance. The finale resembles that of the Appassionata.
Tempestuous cascades give way to a triumphant fugato, and the
sonata ends in victorious glee, with some resemblance to the
finale of Mozart’s Jupiter. This attractive sonata definitely
deserves a wider popularity. I am not sure Gloukhova’s impatient
approach does it the best service: if these muscles were given
the freedom to expand, they could show their full power.
Gloukhova does not hide any of the drama in Mozart’s dark Fantasy,
and adds some more on top. It is known that Mozart himself favored
maintaining strict tempo when playing, so I’m not sure what
he’d say of this performance, which is quite free tempo-wise.
In the most tempestuous places she is in a hurry; together with
the heavy pedal it all sounds a bit muddy. This is far from
the classical style of playing Mozart – this is Appassionata
playing. Even the calming second subject is pressurized. If
this is her Mozart, her Beethoven could be striking!
The F major Sonata is one of the most advanced and interesting
Mozart’s sonatas, especially the first movement with its fantastic
riffs. If the Fantasy contains the seed of Beethoven,
this movement is the seed of Rossini. Predictably, Gloukhova
is in a hurry again. Her second movement is heavy-handed, and
some of its hazy charm is lost. She makes it Andante,
not Adagio and seems to wait for the minor-key places
and plays them as if Chopin wrote them. This haste creates a
certain “music box” effect. Gloukhova plays the garrulous finale
with impatient drive, though not roughly. The tempo is uneven,
and the constant hammering is a bit tiring.
Hummel’s Fantasy on The Marriage of Figaro mostly
travels the Non più andrai aria. Its martial aspects
are well explored, and there are some more playful, less serious
variations. This music does not pretend to have any dramatic
depths – just a nice unassuming paraphrase. Gloukhova plays
After all the turmoil, Mendelssohn’s Andante brings peace
and serenity. The character and the structure of the theme are
reminiscent of Haydn’s famous anthem and could be imagined to
be a variation on it, in a light melancholic minor. Out of the
five variations, No.3 is omitted without an explanation; surely
it could have been accommodated. The other variations are rather
Schumanesque – some more restrained, some more restless, and
all very emotional. This is the most Romantic of the works on
this disc, and it goes well with Gloukhova’s expressive approach.
Technically, the recording is successful. The voice of the piano
is light and bright. The recording is spacious and well balanced.
The sound is very clear, and the inner voices are heard very
well. In general, I liked the candid maximalism of the pianist.
Her technique is very good: not a superpower yet, but she can
do what she wants to do. Yet she seems to me to be in too much
of a hurry, over-personalizing and over-dramatizing the music.
In some places I can almost see how she hardly restrains herself
from leaping forward.
Sometimes a fresh view of the well-known works can be eye-opening.
Daria Gloukhova gives us somewhat romanticized accounts. Some
people like this approach, so consult your preferences. I will
definitely be looking out for her recordings of Beethoven and
Schumann. Although at times it seemed to me that she was already
playing Beethoven and Schumann on this disc.