Anna Fedorova: Four Fantasies = SCRIABIN: Sonata No. 2 in G-sharp minor, Op. 19; CHOPIN: Fantasie in F minor, Op. 49; SCHUMANN: Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17; BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2 “Moonlight” – Anna Fedorova, piano – Channel Classics CCS 41318, 73:05 (9/21/18) [Distr. By Harmonia mundi/PIAS] ****:
In this recording from July 2018, Ukrainian pianist Anna Fedorova (b. 1990) explores the imaginative creations of four composers – opening and closing with two ‘intentional’ piano fantasies to produce what William Blake might have termed ‘fearful symmetry” – which embark on personal visions of other worlds of possibility, including glimpses of Heaven. While the 1836 Schumann Fantasy in C Major provides the center piece, this reviewer gravitated first to the imaginative ‘template’ for all further evolution, Beethoven’s 1801 masterwork, “Moonlight” Sonata. Fedorova’s delivery of the arpeggiated, sequential chord literally shimmers with sensitive inflection, studied, thoughtful, and emotionally compelling, given the dreamy, improvisatory character of the first movement. No less nuanced, Fedorova’s Allegretto in D-flat prances with a light hand, its slight rushes of tempo in the middle section’s contributing to the scherzando affect. The Presto agitato enjoys the artist’s capacity to wrestle with a tempest; for, despite the piano indication, her fortissimi and sforzati project a potent, unapologetic energy. Liquid runs, a defined bass line, and seamless roulades define a most gratifying rendition of perhaps the most over-performed of all piano sonatas, but here in refreshed figures.
The program opens with Alexander Scriabin’s 1897 Second Sonata, to which he appended a program that declares “the first part evokes the calm of a night by the seashore in the South; in the development we hear the somber agitation of the depths. The section in E major represents the tender moonlight which comes after the first dark of the night. The second movement, presto, shows the stormy agitation of the vast expanse of ocean.” Freud would likely claim that the “oceanic” convulsions of this mercurial piece reflect the composer’s deep psyche and certainly an active libido. Fedorova injects particular emphasis into the Andante’s transition into B Major, while her E Major episode glitters in the manner of liberated Chopin. Akin to Liszt and Thalberg, Scriabin enjoys having his melody emerge from the midst of arpeggiated chords, and Fererova’s touch revels in the effect. The second movement proffers a liquid moto perpetuo, the tenor of which echoes the mighty Op. 25, No. 12 of the Chopin Etudes. The melodic content assumes an upward ascent, incomplete until the finale, a strategy close to Beethoven’s Appassionata. Fedorova applies a potent, galloping rhythm whose figures allow her left hand to articulate a grand arch that explodes with Scriabin’s particular brand of pantheistic rapture.
Fedorova approaches Chopin’s heroic 1841 Fantasie in F minor as though it were an episodic ballade. Perhaps its gloomy ethos reflects the composer’s lament for the fallen in the 1831 rebellion; it may well reflect the decaying state of his romance with George Sand. Two marches in major and minor modes of F set us on a powerful journey into the Polish soul. Fedorova inflects the A-flat Major theme so that its reappearances in G-flat and D-flat maintain their unity-in-variety. A marvelous agitation permeates the move into C minor, whose octaves shimmer with elastic passion. Fedorova build the line into a quasi-polonaise and triumphal march whose stoic poise ends the first major section of this mercurial epic. Marked lento sostenuto, the bridge consists in a sad chorale that contains bits of the march tune. The emotional turbulence rises once more, here with the succession of the five themes, some superimposed by virtue of Chopin’s especial counterpoint. That Fedorvoa has maintained the various threads and emotional vagaries of this majestic piece does her credit by way of those revered masters we immediately think of: Rubinstein, Francois, Horowitz, and Malcuzynski.
Fedorova great affection for Schumann’s passionate C Major Fantasy explodes forth from the outset, the descending fifth and dominant ninth chord that permeate its progress an early sign of the emotional stress of Robert Schumann’s separation from his beloved Clara Wieck. It soon becomes apparent that, for Schumann, the idea of fantasy means variation rather than thematic ‘development’ per se. The opening movement, in “the style of a legend” enjoys heroic as well as lyric impulses, often built on broken-note patterns that congeal and split in kaleidoscopic array. That Schumann respected Liszt’s desire to make a musical “monument” to Beethoven invests the lyric and nostalgic elements of the piece with quotes from Beethoven’s Op. 98 song-cycle, An die ferne Geliebte: “take these songs, beloved, those I’ve composed for you.”
Beethoven’s A Major Sonata, Op 101 accepts homage from Schumann’s martial second movement, a grand gesture in dotted rhythm rife with schwung and patriotic grandeur. Likely a reminder of the composer’s sustained battle with philistinism, the music no less intones Schumann’s fervent commitment to his musical and romantic ideals. The sporty play of the notes has elements from Carnaval and Kreisleriana. The middle section offers repose and a brief bower of bliss. But the true test comes in the virile coda, a veritable tour de force that Fedorova accomplishes in blistering triumph. The last movement means to complete an “arch” in commemoration of Beethoven, with apt references to the Moonlight Sonata (and to Schubert’s G-flat Major Impromptu). The last song of the Beethoven song-cycle will appear in new harmony. But the major impulse strikes that note of poetic dreaming, or better, “the nostalgia for the dream” that lovers seek to sustain. As film director Fedorico Fellini so blithely expressed the sentiment: “We cannot live without our dreams, and they cannot die without us.”
Highly recommended, with special mention of Producer and Recording Engineer Jared Sacks.