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François COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Les Lis naissans [6:38]
Les Petits Moulins à vent [2:26]
La Bandoline [4:15]
Le Carillon de Cithére [5:50]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Fantasia in C minor, K. 396 [13:16]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Variations in F minor [17:35]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Arabeske in C, Op. 18 [8:03]
Vogel als Prophet from Waldszenen [3:39]
Four excerpts from Kinderszenen [9:00]
Tatiana Zelikman (piano)
Recording information not provided
FONDAMENTA FON1401018 [76:31]

Tatiana Zelikman is not a household name, but she has left a major mark in the world of Russian piano playing. Sidelined early by a medical condition in the hands which prohibits her from practicing daily, she, as the booklet note puts it, “devote[d] her remarkable artistic potential to her students.” Those students include Daniil Trifonov, Alexander Kobrin, and Alexei Volodin.

This recital album, seemingly her first in a long career, shows the qualities which have made her an important teacher. It also shows evidence of the hand ailment which has restricted her performing career. Not to say that her technique is bad—it’s more than fine—but that she has limited her program to works which are not especially challenging, physically, and which instead demand more of a performer’s temperament and taste.

Zelikman elevates these works with her sensitive touch. This is especially clear in the four Couperin selections which begin the disc. None is a fast work, not like “Le tic-toc-choc,” but the grace, lyricism, and clear intelligence with which Zelikman performs them is a marvel. It’s a reminder that, today, formidable technical chops are easier to find than a formidable mind.

The Mozart Fantasia is presented in a romanticized view, but one which holds together, and is played with great dignity. Haydn’s Variations in F minor are presented in a similar light, the switches from major- to minor-key expressively handled, the music seen through a romantic-era prism. At almost 18 minutes, this is a notably slow performance; many performers take 14, with a minuet-like tread, but not here. (For a totally opposite but equally excellent recording, I’d recommend Zhu Xiao-Mei’s recording on Mirare, five minutes faster than Zelikman’s but not lacking in sensitivity.)

Zelikman’s Schumann Arabeske may be significantly slower than most pianists’, but she treats the main theme with songlike flow, and each time it returns, her transitions slip by so unobtrusively that they’re marvels. The famous “Traumerei” is as dreamy as you’d expect, Zelikman’s rubato minimal and expertly judged. This is a performance that strays from playing the score “straight”, but does not become too sappy. The same goes for “Am Kamin,” with the pianist producing a gloriously soft entry into the miniature.

Throughout, the sound quality is excellent and warm, a little close-up, but allowing you to enjoy fully Zelikman’s personal style. Fondamenta doesn’t tell us where or when the recording happened, but they do provide a bonus CD mastered for use on car stereos and other low-fi equipment. For the most part, the “Mobility Mastering” restricts the dynamic range to “loud” and “louder,” so that you can get a good impression over the road noise. As usual with the label’s “Mobility Mastering,” which I’ve tried before, this gimmick works shockingly well in the car or on a portable radio if you’re doing housework.

This disc is not for everyone, but pianophiles should investigate. Indeed, it’s piano aficionados, and eager amateur performers, who would enjoy this most, as a document of one teaching legend’s unique style of playing. One last word of advice: don’t pull the CD out of the player as soon as the last Schumann track ends. There is a hidden bonus encore of another Couperin work, separated from the last announced work by a two-minute stretch of silence.

Brian Reinhart



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