Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1766-1791)
Fantasia in C minor, K475 (1785) [11:35]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Fantasie in C major, Op.17 (1836-38) [28:26]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Études, Op.25 (1832-36) [31:11]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Images, Book I: No.1 Rêflets dans l’eau (1905) [5:24]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
12 Grandes études de Paganini, S140, No.3 in G sharp minor, La campanella (1838) [4:45]
Youri Egorov (piano)
rec. 3 April 1980 and 12 February 1978 (Liszt) at Ambassador Auditorium, Pasadena, California

Youri Egorov (1954-88) gave this performance at the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, California in April 1980. The bonus track, Paganini’s La campanella, was given at a concert in the same location two years earlier.

The Russian pianist was in the first flush of what was to prove a sadly truncated career, ended at the age of thirty-three. But 1978 was the year in which he gave his New York debut, later returning in December for his first appearance at Carnegie Hall. A whirlwind European tour followed in 1980. His exceptionally promising concerts and the laudatory reviews he received encouraged EMI to sign him in 1978, cautiously at first and later offering him a four-year contract. Many of his recordings were reissued by the company in a 7-CD retrospective in 2008 whilst others appeared on the Globe label.

This Pasadena recital acts as strong ancillary evidence of Egorov’s powerfully conceived musicianship, captured on the wing in live performance. There are two fantasias to start. Mozart’s Fantasia in C minor opens in broodingly introspective fashion, gradually irradiated by a play of colour-conscious tonal breadth, its density rising or falling as the tenor of the music demands. This is altogether an impressively complex reading. I happened afterwards to listen to George Copeland’s old non-commercial recording, once on a Pearl CD, and his aesthetic is altogether more clarity-conscious, direct, and unfussy.

Egorov recorded Schumann’s Fantasie in C major for Dutch EMI in May 1979, as Jonathan Summers’ customarily helpful note relates, though it’s had very limited exposure subsequently. This live performance is poised between expressive objectivity and metrical freedom, but remains at all times deftly coloured, chordally weighted and full of singing elegance and eloquence. He is spirited enough in the second section to split a note or two and plays the slow finale with refined lyricism. He also plays Chopin’s Études, Op.25 – Schumann and Chopin were composers closely associated with him – with great refinement and poetry. The technical smudges are just that – smudges - and largely irrelevant to the enjoyment of playing that is colourful, refined, technically assured, and invariably avoids external showiness.

A Debussy encore, Rêflets dans l’eau, reminds the listener that Egorov recorded Debussy for EMI as well – it’s played with almost tactile, painterly variety of tone. The 1978 Paganini Étude pays witness to Egorov’s panache and conspires to end the disc on a note of high Old School drama.

The recital was taped in excellent sound – no concessions need be made for a live recital – and the frisson of hearing Egorov is palpable. The audience is not shy about its appreciation. This concert performance makes an important contribution to his necessarily select discography.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank
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