CHOPIN: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor “Funeral March”; Waltz in A-flat Major; Impromptu No. 4 in C Sharp Minor “Fantasie-Impromptu”; Nocturne No. 1 in B-flat Minor; Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat Minor – Oxana Yablonskaya, p. – Connoiseur Society

by | Aug 27, 2006 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

CHOPIN: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, OP. 35 “Funeral March”; Waltz in A-flat Major, Op. 42; Impromptu No. 4 in C Sharp Minor, Op. 66 “Fantasie-Impromptu”; Nocturne No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 9, No. 1; Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 31 – Oxana Yablonskaya, piano – Connoisseur Society CD 4258, 49:47 (Distrib. Allegro) ***:

Oxana Yablonskaya made a sensation in Atlanta some twenty years ago, around the time of these Chopin recordings (1984), when she played Tchaikovsky’s G Major Concert Fantasy, making her a natural inheritor of the mantle of Tatiana Nikolayeva. I was fortunate enough to interview her near a piano, where her natural proficiency encouraged her to play for me personally three sparkling Scarlatti sonatas, repertory she has never formally inscribed. These Chopin renditions, if I recall rightly, made their first appearance on cassette tape – then Connoisseur Society’s preferred medium. Yablonskaya sports a big technique, her being a Russian Gina Bachauer, with power and mighty resonance in block chords, and a winning gradation of pianissimo in the Funeral March movement of the Chopin Sonata. The opening of the Sonata, Grave–Doppio movemento proves skittish and structurally incongruous, elements which genuinely mark Chopin’s eclectic style.

Beginning with the 2/4 Waltz in A-flat, Yablonskaya’s Chopin is markedly brilliant and extroverted. The left hand figurations evolve fluently and naturally pulsed. The soft landings at the ends of phrases are ripe with graded dynamics. The Fantasie-Impromptu proceeds with easy, poetic grace and wonderful, light suppleness, much in the Cortot tradition. The kaleidoscopic arpeggios sweep across the canvas. The B-flat Minor Nocturne reveals the innate eroticism in composer and performer. The phrase landings each diminish the sound, the incense burns brightly. More of Moravec than Rubinstein here, the Nocturne throbs with vocal personality. Finally, in this all-too-brief Chopin survey, we have the B-flat Minor Scherzo. Monopolated power and light, to pun on Ellison, for this massive piece. Drama and rhetoric find a tempestuous balance in Yablonskaya’s reading, whose individual touches remind me of both Novaes and Michelangeli at once. Music box delicacy in the trio sections. The declamations are less Bellini than they are Verdi, but making this piece an interlude for Rigoletto would not be inappropriate.

— Gary Lemco

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