STRAVINSKY: Three Movements from Petrouchka; RACHMANINOV: Morceaux de fantasie, Op. 3; TCHAIKOVSKY: Grande Sonate in G Major, Op. 37 – Alexander Ghindin, piano – Piano Classics PCL0044, 69:38 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
Russian virtuoso Alexander Ghindin (b. 1977) performs music by three of his compatriots (rec. June and December 2011, Moscow) that demonstrate Ghindin’s often blazing pyrotechnics and command of his keyboard palette. The opening “Russian Dance” from the 1921 arrangement by Stravinsky of motifs from his own ballet Petrouchka, specifically for pianist Artur Rubinstein, sets the brilliant, glittery, and pellucid tone for the entire recital. Ghindin relishes the keyboard’s pearly play, even in the midst of otherwise percussive filigree. The scene from “Petrouchka’s Room” ripples with color effects, the cascading runs alternating with vocal parlando passages and stunning sforzatos. The sheer momentum Ghindin can invoke from a virtual standstill betokens a colossal arsenal of potential energy, much of which he unleashes in the festive motions of the “La semaine grace,” the Shrovetide Fair. The blazing kaleidoscope leaves us rather breathless and grasping for musical comparisons, of whom perhaps the rendition by the late Gina Bachauer comes closest, though Ghindin’s sparks and bolts of lightning claim their own fire.
The 1893 collection of five Rachmaninov pieces entitled Morceux de Fantasie extends the Ghidrin palette to include a series of Chopinesque character pieces, many of which call on the poet to invoke a nocturne or suggestive etude. The lovely Elegie in E-flat Minor announces a passionate temperament in composer and performer. Should one ascribe this work to a youthful Scriabin, the citation would not be misplaced. Next, the ubiquitous Prelude in C-sharp Minor, almost impossible to perform without cliches. Dedicated to Arensky, the dramatic repetitions gain renewed flavor in Ghindin’s apt hands. Perhaps hearing it once more in its original context provides the refreshment. The E Major Melodie appeals to Chopin’s own capacity for melodic simplicity, though the harmonizations are pure Rachmaninov. Polichinelle appeals to Schumann’s own love for the commedia dell’arte, the character piece a skazka or impish scherzo. In F-sharp Minor, it has Ghindin’s skipping around in grotesque figures that suggest what he could do with Moussorgsky. The last pages’ sincere passages almost quote Liszt’s Un sospiro. The Serenade in B-flat Minor seems a quiet homage to Ravel or Debussy in their Spanish medium. A suave waltz emerges, though the passing harmonies remain Franco-Russian.
Tchaikovsky’s G Major Sonata (1878) has not gleaned the composer respect for his ability to master large-scale composition for the keyboard in the manner of Beethoven. Basically, the rather flimsy melodic materials do not support extended development. Its supplement, the Op. 37a suite The Seasons, better represents the composer’s characteristic gifts. The double-forte chords that open the sonata establish a percussive pattern one might trace to the Schumann Op. 11 Sonata, but even Tchaikovsky’s tranquillo second subject – with hints of the Dies Irae – cannot redeem the stolid martial pounding that the composer called “arid.” Ghindin attempts to inject some pathos into the Andante, but it, too, suffers a dearth of inspiration. Several times, the figures imitate Schumann in whimsical, mercurial runs. When the movement does succeed, it is because the melodic scale assumes a salon sensibility, a forerunner of early Debussy. The Scherzo (Allegro giocoso) sports nimble demands on Ghindin’s contrapuntal dexterity, a sparkling reminiscence in the Mendelssohn mode. The finale, Allegro vivace, returns to the pounding, aggressive mode we know from the Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Major, Op. 44. Repetitive block chords alternate with lyrical fragments, the texture filling out to assume “orchestral” proportions, which Ghindin’s effects in a noble effort to justify the epithet “Grande” in Tchaikovsky’s overly ambitious opus.
An excellent survey of a favorite Chopin genre…