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Vladimir Sofronitsky, piano: Beethoven: Appassionata - Schumann: Carnaval, Op. 9. - Rachmaninov: Three Etudes-Tableaux - Prokofiev: From Ten Pieces, Op. 12

Vladimir Sofronitsky, piano: Beethoven: Appassionata - Schumann: Carnaval, Op. 9.  - Rachmaninov: Three Etudes-Tableaux - Prokofiev: From Ten Pieces, Op. 12-Piano-Russian Piano School
ID: RCD16289 (EAN: 4600383162898)  | 1 CD | ADD
Released in: 2011
Russian Compact Disc
Russian Piano School
BEETHOVEN, Ludwig Van | RACHMANINOV, Sergey Vasil'yevich | SCHUMANN, Robert
SOFRONITSKY, Vladimir (piano)
Other info:

Recorded live in October, 1952
BEETHOVEN, Ludwig Van (1770-1827) 
Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor,Op.57 "Appassionata" 
1. I. Allegro assai10:02
2. II. Andante con moto5:56
3. III. Allegro ma non troppo. Presto4:58
SCHUMANN, Robert (1810-1856) 
4. Préambule2:22
5. Pierrot0:57
6. Arlequin1:11
7. Valse noble1:07
8. Eusebius1:30
9. Florestan0:54
10. Coquette1:07
11. Réplique. Sphinxes1:05
12. Papillons0:30
13. A.S.C.H. - S.C.H.A: Lettres Dansantes0:54
14. Chiarina1:04
15. Chopin1:26
16. Estrella0:23
17. Reconnaissance1:59
18. Pantalon et Colombine1:06
19. Valse allemande. Intermezzo. Paganini2:22
20. Aveu1:01
21. Promenade1:52
22. Pause0:18
23. Marche des "Davidsbündler" contre les Philistins3:39
RACHMANINOV, Sergey Vasil'yevich (1873-1943) 
24. Etudes - Tableau in B minor,Op.39 No.42:32
25. Etudes - Tableau in A minor,Op.39 No.62:54
26. Etudes - Tableau in E-flat major, Op. 33 No. 41:53
27. Oriental Sketch (1917)1:57
PROKOFIEV, Sergey (Sergeyevich) (1891-1953) 
From Ten Pieces,Op.12 
28. Regaudon1:18
29. Prelude2:08
Total time:  


The Russian pianist Vladimir Sofronitsky (1901-1961) is something of a cult figure. Like many classical musicians who purposefully or inadvertently cultivate a fanatical following, he shunned the making of commercial discs, but allowed recordings to be made at his live performances. These recordings were released on obscure labels, traded and sold like illicit jewels, and until the advent of the internet, were not always easy to obtain, a state of affairs that added to his mystique. Because the majority of his discs are live recordings, his playing on record is variable. Performing was an ordeal for the sensitive Sofronitsky.

The Beethoven “Appassionata” sonata was one of Sofronitsky’s warhorses. In the decade before his death, it was one of his three “go-to” Beethoven Sonatas (the other two being the “Moonlight” and op. 111); at least three different recordings of the work exist from that time period (1952, 1957, 1960). This performance is passionate without being distinctive. If one were to hear it live, it would be impressive, but on record, it’s a splashy, often chaotic “Appassionata.” The loud portions of the first movement have the wild approach of an Arthur Rubinstein performance without the Polish pianist’s out-of-control rhythm. The second movement features over-emphatic dotted rhythms that make the music sound lumpy (counter to Beethoven’s long phrase markings). The tempo in the final movement is not particularly fast, but Sofronitsky struggles; the hands de-synchronize in 16th note v. 8th note passages, and numerous notes fall by the wayside. Even when things are functioning from a technical perspective, there’s a hysterical feeling to the proceedings that makes it seem like the performance could go off the rails at any moment. For many, this is a feature, not a bug, but it may be unsettling for those used to the more sanitized, squared-away playing of most modern pianists.
The Schumann Carnaval is much more successful. Sofronitsky rips into the piece with vigor; on this particular day, the scales were tipped firmly in favor of Florestan (the vehement imaginary figure who represented Schumann’s more outspoken critical persona). Tempi are on the fast side without possessing the note of hysteria heard in the Beethoven. He plays with a great deal of color, and is not afraid of applying generous amounts of rubato. Compared to modern pianists, his speed-ups and slow-downs are significant, but in context, they never seem excessive. He is very good at honoring Schumann’s interesting articulations in a way that make you notice them without making them seem out-of-place. Listen to the slurred staccato markings in “Pierrot,” for example; many pianists diligently perform them, but they lack the unique spring that Sofronitsky finds in the sound. Odd voicing choices that detract from the Beethoven here fit the music perfectly. Sofronitsky will suddenly emphasize the thumb in an octave passage, or bring out an unexpected tenor line; these “inner voices” often provide an emotional counterpoint to the melodic line, and the result is much more intriguing than the standard dominant melody + subdued accompaniment. This is an excellent Carnaval.


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