As part of their ‘The Russian Piano Tradition’ series, APR
released this disc devoted to three of Maria Yudina’s Beethoven sonata
recordings, made in Moscow in the 1950s.
Yudina (1899-1970) is probably remembered as much for her
eccentricities as for her profound musicianship. Most of Bryan Crimp’s
fine booklet note is given over to matters biographical and he merely
lightly touches at the end on her ‘burning conviction’ as an
interpreter, adding that the results may not make for comfortable listening.
He succinctly describes her Beethovenian qualities in these performances as
‘captivatingly fluid and natural, full of colour and rhythmic vitality
and born of supreme confidence’. The last named quality is certainly
unquestionable, as she time and again demonstrates.
What one finds in these three performances are cumulative power and
spirit and some very personalised ways with rubati, tempo, timbre and
dynamic gradients. That applies to the Op.26 sonata as much as to the two
bigger works. There's something obdurately hit and miss about her take on
Op.101. She evokes a rustic vigour in the alla marcia
and digs deep
for a sinewy fugal passage in the finale though it's prefaced by vertiginous
rubati once more. For all her acknowledged spiritual depth it sometimes
fails to communicate through the microphone.
At almost exactly the same time Yudina set down her thoughts on the
Solomon was recording it in London. She can’t
help but sound objectified after him; her tone lacks grandeur and solidity
and the sonorous power he commanded is not in evidence in her more brittle
and less inward-seeking performance.
Yudina's appeal is often said to be "spiritual" so elements of her
live communion with an audience - less happily she read poetry in her
recitals as well - are missing. If you seek singing, rounded tone, an
effortlessly spun legato, rectitudinous tempi, a measured approach to
rubati, and adherence to the text then she is not your pianist. Her
courageous approach to the repertoire is best sought in her Stravinsky,
Berg, Hindemith, Bartók and Krenek, where her iconoclasm has less
cause to damage the music's fabric. But for all the perplexing elements of
her playing her granitic single-minded approach is compelling.
One thing certainly worth adding is that the harsh recording quality
certainly is against her but even so her tone colours remain constrained and
sometimes rather granitic and self-limited. That quality was faithfully
reproduced in the multi-volume Yudina series on Vista Vera. I reviewed many
of those discs (released singly) and from APR’s disc, I should note
that Op.26 appeared on Vista Vera volume 8 [VVCD00075 - see review
], that Op.101 was on volume 9 [VVCD0080], and that the
was on volume 4 [VVCD00071].
Another thing to note is the differing approaches of Vista Vera and APR
when it comes to re-mastering. In order to mitigate that harsh Moscow studio
recording APR has clearly been a little more interventionist. The
clangourous treble and the bright tinny sonorities preserved by VV have been
elided into something altogether darker and admittedly, invariably perhaps,
more ‘watery’ by APR. It has tamed that often startling,
strident sound but at the expense of studio acoustic and by imposing
something of a top-to-bottom veil to homogenise the sound. It’s
certainly warmer, but the two approaches are poles apart.
Masterwork Index: Beethoven piano sonata
~~ Sonatas 28