Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
B flat major, L. 250 [2:57]
A major, L. 238 [3:27]
D minor, L. 110 [3:52]
F minor, L. 187 [3:15]
A major, L. 294 [2:59]
B flat major, L. 113 [3:31]
G minor, L. 338 [3:46]
D major, L. 417 [3:17]
D major, L. 461 [5:29]
F major, L. 474 [5:16]
G major, L. 487 [2:29]
C major, L. 458 [3:50]
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
F minor, Wq 57/6, H173 [12:43]
A minor, Wq 57/2, H247 [7:42]
A major, Wq 55/4, H186 [14:03]
D major, Wq 61/2, H286 [4:59]
Nina Milkina (piano)
rec. 1959
FORGOTTEN RECORDS FR1176/7 [44:17 + 39:18]

Nina Milkina may have thought it fortuitous that she shared a birthday with Mozart. She was born in Moscow 27 January 1919. Her parents were artistic, her father etched portraits of such luminaries as Prokofiev and Mussorgsky, whilst her mother was a harpist. In 1926 the family relocated to Paris, where she studied composition with none other than Alexander Glazunov. Later she had several of her own works published. In 1930 she settled in London and took lessons with Tobias Matthay and Harold Craxton. There she made a successful concert career and died in November 2006.
These bright and vivid re-masterings of two Westminster LPs are in remarkably clear sound for their age; I was quite surprised. Neither has appeared on CD previously, as far as I know, so they’re very welcome indeed to supplement the Milkina's rather scant discography. What attracts me to the Scarlatti disc is that she selected less familiar sonatas, and this adds to the recital’s interest; there’s a notable absence of the otherwise ubiquitous Sonata in B minor K87/L33, which is a plus in itself.

Milkina brings freshness and spontaneity to her readings. She has the advantage of an expertly voiced piano, which has a rich full-bodied tone. Her sensitivity of touch and instinctive pedalling invests her playing with an array of tonal tints and hues. Dynamics are carefully graded and phrasing is judged to perfection. The faster sonatas sparkle and the slower ones are profound and considered. The trills of L238 and L474 ring out with bell-like clarity. The attractive L250, which opens the recital, has a dance-like quality, and L487 has verve, vigour and rhythmic drive. On the other side of the coin L187 is ruminative and lyrically expressive.

The second CD is devoted to four of C.P.E. Bach’s piano sonatas. I am amazed each time I hear them how startlingly original and imaginatively inventive they are. They’re also generously melodic and explore a wide emotional range from energy and zest to profundity and even despair. Milkina negotiates the ebb and flow of the emotional narrative of each with innate understanding and perception. In the A minor, for instance, the central slow movement is sombre and reflective, in total contrast to the whimsical Allegro di molto which follows.

There are no accompanying notes with this release, but the listener is directed to various websites of interest. One I found particularly helpful was Christopher Howell’s tribute.

Stephen Greenbank