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Three Aspects of Emotions Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Gaspard de la Nuit (1908) [23:35] Albena PETROVIC- VRATCHANSKA (b.1965)
Mirages [31:05] Alexander SCRIABIN (1871-1915)
Sonata No. 5 in F-Sharp Major, Op. 53 (1907) [14:26]
Vanya Pesheva (piano)
rec. 2018 PARATY PTY209187 [69:00]
Vanya Pesheva, a new name for many including me, is a Bulgarian pianist who combines her active performing and teaching activities. Her repertoire extends to a variety of styles, primarily focusing on piano and chamber works. These are always interpreted with a keen emotional reflectivity and sensitivity, combined with intense expansiveness of musical expression and spontaneity of temperament. She has been characterised as: “… a bright musician with her own interpretational view, possessing all the qualities for an artistic career – brilliant technique and performer individuality” (Prof. Zheni Zaharieva); and possessed of “…very mature music-making with a deep understanding of the different styles in which the player invests her talent and great virtuoso brilliance.” (Musical Horizons magazine).
Pesheva began her intense concert activity early on, when at the age of 9 she participated in the prestigious international Assembly “Banner of Peace” in Sofia. She has given concerts as a soloist with most symphony orchestras in her country. Her active performing career includes solo and chamber recitals in Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Macedonia, France, Switzerland, South Korea. She has appeared on Bulgarian National Radio and participated in prestigious music festivals, including “March Music Days”, “European Music Festival”, “Salon des Arts”,” Sofia Summer”, “Golden Lyre”, the international festivals of chamber music in Plovdiv and Dobrich and the International Festival “Laureate Days of Katya Popova” in Pleven. In 2010, she realized and released a CD of “Piano Sonatas” with works by Beethoven, Schubert and Rachmaninoff. The present recital is her first disc to be generally distributed.
According to the very brief notes in the digipak the programme “shows three sides of [the pianist’s] passion, three emotional facets in three different aesthetics, from the Twentieth and Twenty-First centuries. Bringing together Ravel and Scriabin who provide the impressionistic and expressionistic roots of the modern Luxembourg composer, Albena Petrovic, Vanya chooses to follow a narrative of dense and dramatically intense music.” Listening to this impassioned playing bears out these comments but begged the question as to the reference to Albena Petrovic. There are no notes at all on the music or details on the composers. Google brings up a website of Albena, a Luxembourgish composer of Bulgarian origin who has over 600 works to her name. They do not appear to have been covered by MusicWeb International. There is an album of Petrovic’s music “Bridges of Love” on Solo Musica about which there doesn’t seem to be any more detail available. I’m surprised and disappointed that there isn’t more information to aid the uninitiated but interested listener.
The chosen programme isn’t an area that I feel very qualified to make more than very cursory comment. There are a considerable number of recordings of the Ravel works available and many have been reviewed here. The piano concertos and various orchestral pieces are familiar but not the solo works. I do have Pascal Rogé in an excellent Decca boxed set of “Piano Masterworks” but to date I haven’t played those discs. I would be interested to hear Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, whom I have heard in concert and who has recorded these and other works for MDG (review). Listeners with a greater knowledge of Ravel’s sound-world will be better able to judge her undoubted ability.
Regarding Petrovic’s “Mirages” my reaction was that the music seems to be rather relentless and if it’s emotional, then it is of a persistent nature. There seems no doubt that Pesheva has great technical ability and the sound of the “Op. 102” piano is impressive. The impressionistic sounds in, for example “Sevdana’s Tribute” are most imposing. It is frustrating that bereft of annotation, I am unclear as to her “take” on this demanding music. It does seem to me strange that generally unknown music by a similarly undiscovered composer is being performed with no covering explanation.
The third emotional piece is Scriabin’s Fifth Sonata. I had the pleasure of hearing his Second Symphony performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko a couple of years ago and enjoyed it greatly. Reviewing a complete set of ten Sonatas recorded by Garrick Ohlsson on Bridge, Stephen Barber, helpfully, explains that the celebrated
Sonata No. 5 was written in a few days just after the orchestral “Poem of Ecstasy”. It is in the one movement form Scriabin was to use thereafter for all his sonatas. After opening like an ascending rocket it alternates yearning passages, marked “languido”, with a fast dance like that of Sonata No. 4. Another theme is characteristic: a sonorous three note summons to attention like a horn-call. It all builds to a huge climax and then takes off again into the sky. I note that Pesheva takes 14:26 against Ohlsson’s 12:12 and admire the way that she traverses the rapids of this highly demanding piece. She certainly gives her piano a real going-through and congratulations must be given for preparation, sound engineers and producers. I caught intakes of breath during the performance but they added to the intensity.
Summing up is difficult. I feel that we could have been helped with more information. Nevertheless this was a stimulating experience and Pesheva is highly technically proficient. As an interpreter of such demanding and to me relatively unknown music, I can only say that she seems worth hearing for those who enjoy these works. David R Dunsmore