SCHUBERT: Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, D. 960; Impromptu in C Minor, D. 899, No. 1; Impromptu in A-flat Major, D. 899, No. 4 – Nina Kavtaradze, p. – Danacord DACOCD 733, 66:27 [Distr. by Albany] ***:
A graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, Nina Kavtaradze claims a pedagogy beholden to Lev Oborin and a long musical association with master cellist Erling Bloendal Bengtsson. Her rendition of the Schubert B-flat Sonata (rec. 18-20 October 2012) from Heslets Hall, Denmark will either win the approbation of acolytes of an “inflated” style in the manner of Sviatoslav Richter or disdain from purists who want their Schubert without the huge rhetorical gestures.
Kavtaradze’s “expansive” playing of the opening Molto moderato alone proceeds over twenty-three minutes, long enough to have absorbed an entire Mozart sonata. Kavtaradze takes the repeat, with its ominous fortissimo trill that will prove such a disruptive force to the otherwise other-worldly serenity the music often achieves. The Steinway piano sound proves richly resonant without harsh ping or overtones, courtesy of engineer Viggo Mangor.
The musical proportions become more orthodox as Kavtaradze proceeds, the lovely Andante sostenuto’s receiving a meditatively lyrical treatment, also lingering perhaps too sentimentally on the opening pages, but then flowing into a real aria of noble exaltation. When Kavtaradze wants a forte, she does not compromise, but her natural legato possesses resonant power. As in the first movement – whose motifs supply materials for this C-sharp Minor Andante – Kavtaradze knows how to “play” a fermata for its dramatic poise. A new touch, literally, appears in Kavtaradze’s dynamic in the Scherzo – marked con delicatezza – an impishly muscular rendition that dances through both hands in alternations of A Major and B-flat. The waltz-like tap-dance of the syncopated trio section has finesse, but we feel that the lioness remains ready to pounce. The final Allegro, ma non troppo dances along with two main ideas, with Kavtaradze’s projecting a pesante image of the first one. A combination of bravura sparkle and melancholy nostalgia permeates this music, which occasionally generates long and cascading arches in perpetual motion. The sudden explosions in this music remind us that the shadow of Beethoven often haunted Schubert’s imagination.
The martial C Minor Impromptu suits Kavtaradze’s magisterial temper like a glove, in that she can exert her personal tempests — the music itself seems to invoke Beethoven’s C Minor Symphony — upon this drama as well as sing a lofty paean to love and transience. She proves a fine colorist, projecting Schubert’s harmonic subtleties and surprises with an elastic resonance that remains with us long after the notes themselves decay. The A-flat Major Impromptu – a piece which long seemed to me to “belong” to Artur Schnabel – allows Kavtaradze rippling arpeggios and harmonized chords in abundance in the manner of waltz-like reverie. Her playing remains incredible sturdy, much reminiscent of the power we received from Gina Bachauer. Happily, Kavtaradze rarely exceeds her dynamic to become merely vulgarly percussive, as is the wont of some of our more notable priestesses. If you can accept the fiercely potent Kavtaradze aesthetic, you will likely find her conceptions most compelling.