Classical CD Reviews

SCHUBERT: 12 German Dances; Hungarian Melody in B Minor; Adagio in E Major; Impromptu in F Minor; Piano Sonata in A Major, D – Inesa Sinkevych, p. – Joe Patrych Studio

Israeli pianist Inesa Sinkevych proves herself a worthy disciple of Franz Schubert, offering here a mixture of occasional miniatures and dances as well as the awesome A Major Sonata of Schubert’s final year.

Published on July 25, 2013

SCHUBERT: 12 German Dances; Hungarian Melody in B Minor; Adagio in E Major; Impromptu in F Minor; Piano Sonata in A Major, D – Inesa Sinkevych, p. – Joe Patrych Studio

SCHUBERT: 12 German Dances, D. 790; Hungarian Melody in B Minor, D. 817; Adagio in E Major, D. 612; Impromptu in F Minor, D. 935, No. 4; Piano Sonata in A Major, D. 959 – Inesa Sinkevych, piano – Joe Patrych Studio, 67:50 ****: 

Ukrainian-born Israeli pianist Inesa Sinkevych is a laureate of the Artur Rubinstein Competition who sports a big tone and a sweet cantabile. These attributes serve her well in the selected music of Franz Schubert (rec. November 2011), whose Viennese charm often approaches Beethoven in power and the Polish master Chopin for melodic invention. In the tradition of legendary Schubert players like Brendel, Schnabel, and Kempff, Ms. Sinkevych opts for a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar opera, the latter coming from the numerous sets of dances and individual laendler forms Schubert composed 1818-1828.

The opening set of German Dances (1823) are known to those of us who recall collections of them by Jorg Demus, Alfred Brendel, and Leon Fleisher. The plastic and harmonically –and enharmonically – rich set flows and canters with facile grace and finesse, their melodic richness transcending the Beidermeier, “home-spun” practicality of their digital demands. More often than not, they suggest a direct lineage to the later, often melancholy Brahms waltzes of his Op. 39. Schubert’s compelling Hungarian Melody in B Minor(1824) possesses a compelling impulse derived from a Magyar folk dance cross-fertilized by gypsy colors, likely from the Zseliz region of the Esterhazy estate where Schubert taught the Count’s two daughters. The 1818 Adagio in E Major juxtaposes a tenderly simple melody against some luxuriant, even aviary, decorative devices, which Sinkevych performs with studied sympathy, realizing the whole as a song without words. The most dazzling entry of this first set, the F Minor Impromptu from Op. 142, displays Sinkevych in broken and unison scales, brisk runs in thirds, and flashy trills. She plays the piece a bit marcato for my taste, but the effect proves potent and leisurely without having sacrificed the sense of triumph in its chromatic cross-currents.

For the 1828 A Major Sonata, Sinkevych musters up both grand passion and elegiac lyricism rendered without fuss or mannered rubato. Like her spiritual ancestor Artur Rubinstein – who unfortunately did not record this sonata – Sinkevych seems content to let the music “play itself” without the “intrusion of virtuoso personality.” The six-bar figure (in fleeting triplets) that opens the work Sinkevych seizes as a leitmotif to bind the work as a whole. The emergent drama proceeds as Schubert’s waywardly chromatic treatment of the themes contrasts with the simple diatonism of the secondary tune. The octave leap in the left hand, too, later assumes a guileless presence, as if all inner demons of the declamatory Allegro have been temporarily quelled. The disarming beauty of the Andantino has the mesmeric aura that Rudolf Serkin imparted to this uncanny movement, though despite her obvious fluency Sinkevych lacks his manic power in the polyphonic middle section.

Articulate and breezy, the ensuing Scherzo moves, Allegro vivace, in sparkling periods; at least until Schubert interjects those ominous quarter notes from the opening movement to impose a gravitas or momento mori on even the most buoyant moment in Breughel. The slow movement of Schubert’s earlier Sonata in A Minor, D. 537 provides the main theme for the Rondo: Allegretto of D. 959. Sinkevych wants the nostalgia of this movement to reign as it undergoes transformations that combine rondo, sonata-allegro, and variations procedures. Again, towards the coda, Schubert re-introduces his ominous octave descent, but the gesture has been appropriated into a joyous acceptance of fate met head-on, accepted, and affirmed. I found Sinkevych in this movement thoroughly apt in the articulation of emotional nuance and elasticity of line, elements of a convincing performance by a newcomer to my Schubertiad precincts.

—Gary Lemco

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