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)
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
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.