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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Twelve German dances, Op. 171, D.790 (1823) [13:06]
Hungarian melody in B minor, D.817 (1824) [3:57]
Adagio in E major, D.612 (1818) [4:59]
Impromptu in F minor, Op. 142, no. 4 (1828) [7:40]
Sonata in A major, D. 959 [37:44]
Inesa Sinkevych (piano)
rec. November 2011, Joe Patrych studio, New York. DDD

Occasionally artists come along who play with a maturity that belies their age. Yehudi Menuhin was one example. His original recording of the Elgar concerto, which was made while he was still in his teens, shows an understanding that someone of his age could not be expected to have. I would put Inesa Sinkevych in the same category.
Sinkevych studied in her native Ukraine, Tel Aviv, Chicago and New York with pianists such as Alexander Volkov and Solomon Mikowsky. Judging from the cover photograph, she looks still to be in her twenties, but has found time for the usual competition awards and a Doctor of Musical Arts from the Manhattan School of Music. Her choice of repertoire goes against the stereotype; one might expect a young pianist to be more interested in showing off her virtuoso chops with Rachmaninov and Liszt. In this case, however, one would be quite wrong, because this disc shows her to be a Schubertian of real distinction. The selection makes a well-planned recital, starting with the charming Twelve German dances, and ending with the great A major Sonata, D. 959.
Let me start with a cavil: some of the Twelve German dances, D. 790, had a bit too much rubato for my taste. These brief pieces are only about a minute in duration, and some feel a bit over-cooked. The Hungarian Melody, D. 817, made a great impression at one of Paul Lewis’ Schubert recitals in Melbourne last year. Sinkevych is steadier, and brings out the work’s quasi-Oriental character with her wide and attractive range of tone colours. The Adagio, D. 612, is an early, rather Mozartean piece showing the young Schubert’s skill at elaborating a melody. The Impromptu, Op. 142, No.4, is much more familiar. The trills are played with great clarity, and the long crescendo powerfully shaped; the return of the main melody brings a sense of a journey renewing itself. Sinkevych gives all these works a full-blooded treatment, with nothing tentative about her playing. She combines a crystalline tonal range in her right hand with quite a firm line in the left; the latter is always applied with restraint.
The main event is the Sonata which I felt was quite outstanding. This piece has perhaps the widest emotional compass of any of Schubert’s sonatas, by turns playful, vehement, bitter and radiant. Sinkevych really finds her range in this work; like Sviatoslav Richter, everything she does relates to the whole. Along with her wide tonal palette, she brings just the right combination of momentum and relaxation to Schubert’s long paragraphs. In this I feel she shades Paul Lewis, whose playing in this repertoire I find lacks expansiveness. The strength of her left hand pays dividends in the Andantino. This opens in a desolate mood which gives way to a towering central episode: a fit of cosmic rage that casts a shadow over the whole work. The genie is right out of the bottle here and Sinkevych does not short-change us on the work’s emotional depths. Schubert follows this devastating movement with a jaunty scherzo and an expansive sonata-rondo, both richly characterised.
The great Russian pianist Elisabeth Leonskaya is frequently illuminating in Schubert; her understated manner has great naturalness and humility. After Sinkevych, however, her D.959 seemed rather plain, and failed to hold my attention. As one would expect, Sinkevych’s technique is well up to all the demands that this sonata poses. What is more unusual - and more moving - is the sureness of her interpretation; she seems to be allowing the music to speak through her.
Inesa Sinkevych has issued this disc on her own label. Listeners who are reluctant to buy such releases will miss out on something really special. It contains extremely fine Schubert playing, and the piano sound is just as good, clear and with excellent colour and dynamic range. 

Guy Aron