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Forgotten Melodies
Mischa LEVITZKI (1898-1941)
Love Waltz, Op. 2 (1921) [1:46]
Waltz arabesque, Op. 6 (1934) [3:16]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 36 (1913, rev. 1931 in Horowitz version) [21:00]
Nikolai MEDTNER (1880-1951)
Forgotten Melodies, cycle 1, Op. 38 (c. 1916/22) [35:08]:
No.1 Sonata reminiscenza [12:52]
No.2 Danza graziosa [2:24]
No.3 Danza festiva [5:15]
No.4 Canzona fluviala [3:23]
No.5 Danza rustica [2:04]
No.6 Canzona serenata [4:17]
No.7 Danza silvestra [4:06]
No.8 Alla Reminiscenza [2:17]
Polina Leschenko (piano)
rec. 19-20 December 2011, Arc en Scènes, La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland
On this Avanticlassic release of piano pieces played by St. Petersburg-born Polina Leschenko the three composers share Russian Imperial connections. All were born in the Russian Empire and suffered from the fearful political situation around the time of the Revolution. In addition they were renowned concert pianists although known more in their lifetime for their prowess at the piano rather than as composers.
The first works are from the pen of Mischa Levitzki who was born in the Ukraine whilst his American immigrant parents were on a return visit. Levitzki wrote piano transcriptions of famous orchestral works and a small number of original pieces. Here Leschenko has chosen to record two miniatures. First the Love Waltz, Op. 2 which is attractive yet rather inconsequential and lasts under two minutes. Second the charming and extremely Chopinesque Waltz arabesque with its dramatic if fleeting central episode.
Rachmaninov was born at Semyonovo in the north-west. Although he left Russia in 1917 eventually settling in the United States Rachmaninov strove throughout his exile to recreate the nostalgic pre-Revolutionary flavour of his homeland. It became an increasing source of annoyance to him that the remarkable popularity of his Prelude in C sharp minor overshadowed all his other solo piano works. Written in 1913 and cast in three interrelated movements the Piano Sonata No. 2 was subject to considerable revision in 1931 with cuts and much rewriting. In 1940 Rachmaninov’s friend, the Ukrainian-born Vladimir Horowitz expressed his view that the 1931 revision had been too extreme. At Rachmaninov’s suggestion Horowitz produced his own performing edition by fusing elements of the two published versions. It is the Horowitz that Leschenko has recorded here. She breezes through the stark contrasts of the extended opening movement Allegro agitato. There’s impressive power and technical command in the impudent and exhilarating central Non allegro. The Finale: Allegro molto is afforded meltingly romantic playing laced with poetry and radiant with warmth.
Moscow-born Nikolai Medtner, a younger contemporary of Rachmaninov and Scriabin studied at the Moscow Conservatory. All of Medtner’s scores include the piano. His ten sets of Fairy Tales for solo piano are probably the best known. There are three cycles of Forgotten Melodies opp. 38, 39 and 40 that Medtner wrote in the years 1916/22. On this recording Leschenko plays the cycle of eight Forgotten Melodies, Op. 38. Her expressive interpretation reflects an edifying mix of feelings and emotions: Predominately reflective there are turbulent sections in the extended No. 1 Sonata reminiszenca. The Danza grazioso is highly affectionate contrasting with the vibrant Danza festiva. Canzona fluviala find the composer in sensitive and alluring form. The extrovert and highly melodic Danza rustica is followed by the Canzona serenata. The charm offset by a short angry episode of Alla Reminiscenza is preceded by the impishly Scherzo-like Danza Silvestre.
Forgotten Melodies is a winning hybrid SACD played on my standard unit. The close sound is satisfying with a fine presence. Polina Leschenko provides highly accomplished and extremely fluent pianism that commands a wide range of keyboard colour.  

Michael Cookson