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Scherzo for Piano no 1 in B minor, Op. 20 [9:09]
Scherzo for Piano no 2 in B flat minor, Op. 31 [9:10]
Scherzo for Piano no 3 in C sharp minor, Op. 39 [7:10]
Scherzo for Piano no 4 in E major, Op. 54 [10:31]
Fantaisie in F minor, Op. 49 [12:40]
Yuri Boukoff (piano)
rec. 1957, Esoteric Studios, New York FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR973 [48:53]
Representation of the pianism of Yuri Boukoff (1923-2006) on CD is meagre to say the least. What little there is confines itself to obscure labels, mostly long-since deleted, with a consequent strain on the pocket. The pianist’s discography is relatively paltry anyway; he appears not to have signed up exclusively for one label, though Philips does feature prominently. It is laudable that Forgotten Records should step into the breach and fill a lacuna with this digital release of a long lost Westminster LP (XWN 18781) from the late ’fifties.
I must confess that I have never encountered Boukoff’s playing before. Quite why his profile slipped under the radar, on the evidence of what we have here, amazes me. He could claim a good pedigree – his teachers included George Enescu, Edwin Fischer, Marguerite Long and Yves Nat. Added to this, he won several prestigious prizes: Geneva – 1947; Long-Thibaud - 1949 and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium - 1952. Interestingly, in 1956 he became the first European pianist to undertake a tour of China.
Boukoff brings to these Chopin compositions intelligence and inspiration. His, at times, scintillating virtuosity, enables him to realize the dramatic and lyrical contours of the music, effectively pointing up the contrasts and emotional range of these large-scaled piano works. In the first Scherzo, for instance, the declamatory detonations at the beginning set the tone for a reading full of drama and passion. The central B major episode, based on the Polish song ‘Lulajże Jezuniu’ is ushered in truly molto più lento as Chopin indicates, and provides an effective lyrical contrast to the surrounding presto con fuoco.
Tempi seem just right and dynamics and phrasing are well judged. The opening of the fourth Scherzo is deftly capricious, yet an aristocratic poise is maintained throughout. The middle section is fervent and expressive. The recital ends with the F minor Fantaisie. Boukoff brings to this loosely-structured and quasi-improvisatory work a wealth of imagination, taking the listener on a journey of discovery as he traverses the contrasting moods of the piece.
Sound quality is more than acceptable, given the age of the recording. Although only 49 minutes in length, the duration of the original LP, this is a small price to pay for such thrilling music-making.