Primakov in Concert, Vol. 2 = MENDELSSOHN, BACH, GLASS & DEBUSSY – Bridge

by | Dec 19, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews

Primakov in Concert, Vol. 2 = MENDELSSOHN: 6 Songs Without Words, Op. 30; BACH: French Suite No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 813; GLASS: Suite from “The Hours”; DEBUSSY: Suite Bergamasque – Vassily Primakov, piano – Bridge 9350, 67:41 [Distr. By Albany] ****:
Bridge assembles a second volume of live concerts featuring Russian-born Vassily Primakov, pupil of Jerome Lowenthal and among the luminaries on the contemporary music scene. This disc adds four new composers to Primakov’s discography, beginning with Felix Mendelssohn’s complete 1835 Book 2 of Songs Without Words (rec. 2005), which is asking simplicity and grace to open this diverse program. After a luxuriant E-flat Minor Andante, we have a rollicking gallop in B-flat Minor, Allegro di molto. The big piece from the set remains the No. 6 F-sharp Minor Venetian Gondola Song, the second in his triptych of such pieces. Though less ambitious than the esteemed Chopin Barcarolle, the formula for melodic beauty and rhythmic persuasion applies, its tender nuances a suave vehicle for Primakov’s sympathetic reading.
Primakov next offers a French Suite in C Minor (rec. 2006), one of the many renamed partitas Bach composed 1722-1725. Primakov admits that Bach provides clarity in diverse forms: “structure, rhythm, balance, timing, restraint, counterpoint, and voicing.” The Spanish-based Sarabande occupies pride of emotional place in the six-movement suite, and Primakov accords it a full measure of ornamental sweetness. Typical of the “French” Suites, the emotional affect tends to be introspective and emotionally austere. The Air conforms to the “stately” epithet without releasing the affective leash into abandon. The last two movements, however, assume a more genial, dance-character wiring contrapuntal bounds.
Primakov admires the music of Philip Glass (b. 1937), and he adopted as a four-movement suite the 2003 piano transcription by Michael Riesman and Nico Muhly the music for The Hours, the 2002 motion picture by Stephen Daldry. The story investigates the effect of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway influencing various characters’ tendency to self-destruction. Repetitive and haunted, the suite captures the opening suicide-note scene, rife  with melancholy and doom. Primakov’s 2008 performance—moody, atmospheric, and rhythmically pliant—should prove iconic for his discography. The final suite belongs to Claude Debussy (rec. 2008), his 1890 (rev. 1905) “antique” reaction to verses by Paul Verlaine. The F Major Prelude provides a stately, subtlety erotic vehicle for Primakov, while the Menuet finds a wit consonant with pieces like Le Petit Negre or Le Danse de Puck.  The rich luxuries of Romanticism permeate every bar of Primakov’s Clair de Lune, a piece we know from Gieseking to Portrait of Jennie. Primakov supplies sumptuous staccato bass notes for his final Passepied, a medieval dance whose F-sharp Minor sensibilities touch us with their colors and magical connection to our own romantic yearnings.
—Gary Lemco