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2.1. Vladimir Sofronitsky
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Vladimir Sofronitsky plays vol.3
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Vladimir Sofronitsky plays vol.3

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Cat No: VVCD-00031
 
Number of CDs: 1
 

Schubert - Liszt
1 Der Muller und der Bach
2 Erlkonig
3 Litanie
4 Fruhlingsglaube
5 Der Doppelgaenger
6 Aufenthalt

Schubert
7 Impromtu c moll op.90, ? 1
8 Impromtu A Flat major op.142, ?2
9 Impromtu G Flat major op.90, ?3
10 Moment musicale ?1 C Dur
11 Moment musicale ?2 A Flat major
12 Moment musicale ?3 f minor
13 Moment musicale ?4 c sharp minor
14 Moment musicale ?6 A flat major

Vladimir Sofronitsky - piano

Sofronitsky (1901-61) has been variably and erratically served by record companies. But Vista Vera has now entered the market with its own contribution. Let's hope a comprehensive edition is not too unrealistic a hope.
Here his playing spans the years 1953-60. The C minor Impromptu from D899 is full of drama and extravagant rubati, its contours etched with exaggerated intensity, whilst the A flat major (D935 No.2) is quixotic indeed, with slow and fast tempi stretching the piece almost - but not quite - to breaking point. The G flat major is, to my ears, more Chopin then Schubert and amongst the slowest performances I've heard. The Moments Musicaux were recorded in 1959 in a more resonant acoustic then the Impromptus and don't suffer from quite the same level of intervention; he plays five of the six, dropping the fifth. The A flat major (No.2) is grave and the F minor wryly sedate whilst the concluding A flat major (No.6) is deliberate and intensely sombre. But when it comes to Sofronitsky's unevenness as a performer, especially in his last days, one can make a comparison between, say, the G flat major Impromptu in this 1960 performance and that on BMG'S 'Russian Piano School' Sofronitsky issue. Both recorded within months of each other in 1960 the BMG Impromptu has the same approach to rubato and sight subservience of the left hand in the opening paragraphs but is much more rigorously controlled, tighter and more apt. It shows just how changeable Sofronitsky could be. The Schubert-Liszt transcriptions derive from a 1960 session and are examples of his touching bravura in this repertoire. In Erlkonig there is some loss of impetus and submerged right hand detail but there's compensatory gravity in Der Doppelganger.
Jonathan Woolf

The Russian company Vista Vera has now embarked on its own Sofronitsky programme.
An individualist of powerful personality?
Certainly these Schumann performances enshrine uneven musicianship which at its best rises to exceptionally eloquent heights but which can also rely on less immediately appealing characteristics. In Carnaval for instance he takes time - understandably - to warm up but also indulges in some precipitous voicings and some harsh accents (in Preambule), quixotic tempo acceleration (Pierrot) and heavy handed phrasing (Coquette). This is the kind of performance to be judged on its own terms and reference to say, Rachmaninov's or Myra Hess's legendary recordings is best put to one side. Sofronitsky is aptly full of vigour and incisive rhythm in Lettres dansantes (though his speed here is relatively sedate) but does tend to make a bit of a meal of the rubato, voicings and dichotomy between rough rhythm and legato in Estrella.
Kreisleriana amplifies these occasional extremes of response. In places he's quite expansive, and he tends to prefer relaxed nobility of rhythm to say, Horowitz's sense of momentum. That said his gravity and weighted chords in the fourth of the pieces (Sehr Langsam) is undeniably affecting and taken at a convincing tempo. Arabesque is also fine and an attractive reading. Uneven yes but unsettlingly human and with a technique still able to cope with most demands, Sofronitsky remains one of the troubling giants of post-War pianism.
Jonathan Woolf

The full text of the review see on www.musicweb.uk.net/classrev

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