Violetta Vialko, In Recital: LIADOV: 14 Biryul’ki, Op. 2; Trois Morceaux: Prelude in B minor, Op. 11/1; MEDTNER: Piano Sonata “Reminiscenza,” Op. 36/1; PROKOFIEV: 10 Pieces from ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ Op. 75; SCRIABiN: Piano Sonata No. 4 in F# Major, Op. 30 – Violetta Fialko, piano – divine art dbu 20211 (70:17) [Distr. by Naxos] *****:
Ukrainian pianist Violetta Fialko (b. 1997) makes her recording debut with this recital, taped in January 2022. A student of Alfonso Soldano, Fialko took First Prize at the Ciccolini Competition, 2021. Despite the open hostilities between her native land and Russia, she selects here a colorful array of solo keyboard works that illuminate her capacity for realizing distinct, musical personalities within a defined idiom.
Fialko opens with Anatoly Liadov’s 1876 set of miniatures he labels Biryul’ki, the equivalent of pick-up-sticks, the children’s game that involves releasing a handful of thin sticks into a pile, from which one uses a colored stick to remove individual sticks from the pile without disturbing any of the other pieces. The assortment may pre-figure Prokofiev’s notion of Fugitive Visions in their spiky brevity, their delicate, songful character that demands a light touch and a sense of contrived naivete. Fialko then adds a touching Prelude in B Minor whose rainy-day sentiment seems a cross between Brahms and Rachmaninoff.
The music of Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951) received more attention in that generation of pianists like Benno Moiseiwitsch and Sviatoslav Richter, who relished the wry, romantic contours and self-indulgent modalities of the composer, himself a fine advocate of his keyboard works. Medtner’s idiosyncratic oeuvre has enjoyed a renaissance of late. The 1918-1920 Sonata Reminiscenza in A Minor unfolds as one movement, a tearful farewell to his beloved homeland, then in the throes of the Revolution and its immediate aftermath. The piece has breadth and various shades of mood, alternately delicate and impulsive, though its introspective moments hold us in thrall. A bravura piece in its own way, the knotty task of holding its disparate sentiments together has had good results from Evgeny Kissin and Boris Berezovsky, and now, Violetta Fialko, who obviously cherishes its color possibilities.
The animated spirit of Sergei Prokofiev shifts the recital away from nostalgia to a brisk fervor of grand ballet, with the composer’s arrangement of his music for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64, whose production in the mid-1930s by the Bolshoi had been cancelled for political reasons. Prokofiev’s keyboard arrangement of ten pieces preserves much of the relevant action in the form of a series of toccatas, virtuoso showpieces for the performer. The dances capture the folk elements – often in staccato figures – that pervade the city of Verona and its warring clans. The fatal passion that emerges has some of the most ardent, lyrically compelling tropes in music. The various character sketches, of Juliet, Mercutio, Friar Laurence, and Romeo, in his parting scene, emanate wit, youthful energy, and the inevitable tragedy that besets the eponymous lovers. Fialko’s rendition of “Juliet as a young girl” has graceful exuberance and that mysterious touch of mature passion that will prove her undoing. Fialko’s pungent reading of “Romeo and Mercutio Masked” revived my earliest recollection of this music, as rendered by the New York Philharmonic under Dimitri Mitropoulos. The gravitas in “The Montagues and the Capulets” has the dire power of Mussorgsky in its bell tones and shattering, passing dissonances. The most extended scene, of “Romeo and Juliet before Parting,” had to compete with my personal favorite recording, from Evgeny Mogilevsky, which Fialko accomplishes with her own sympathy for the uncanny, tragic poetry of this classic score.
Filako concludes with music by the Russian mystic and extreme solipsist, Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915), whose 1903 Fourth Sonata throbs with the composer’s yearning for divine light. In two movements, Andante and Prestissimo volando, the music means to capture a text of aspirations to seize a distant star, embodied in a pattern of falling sixth and rising scale. The key center in F# remains tangible, but the chromatic motion sets the piece, especially in the deliciously delirious second movement, in its own universe. The three-hand effects, traceable to Thalberg, emerge with resilient force, especially as Scriabin borrows layered effects from the third of Chopin’s ballades. The result from Fialko compounds passion, exoticism, and that touch of erotic madness that defines the Scriabin experience. A most auspicious debut recital, this.
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