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Franz Schubert: Drei Klavierstücke, D. 946
Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Sonata No. 7, Op. 83
Frédéric Chopin: 24 Preludes, Op. 28

Yulianna Avdeeva (piano)
Recorded at the Auditorium Pierre de Ronsard, Tours, France (February 10-13, 2014) – 91’
2 CDs Mirare MIR 252 – Notes in French, English, and German

Yulianna Avdeeva was the first prize winner at the International Chopin Piano Competition in 2010. The decision was controversial (nothing new there). The third prize winner was Daniil Trifonov and he seems to be having a flourishing career. A friend of mine attended the 2010 competition and heard all 78 entrants in the first round (yes, seventy-eight - my friend has stamina!) assigning a score out of 100 to each one. Avdeeva received a perfect 100 for technical ability and musicality. She was definitely not robotic, although there was a coolness in her approach.

I do not detect a coolness in her playing on these discs. One expects some major Chopin to be played, and her treatment of the 24 Preludes is marvelously well thought out and well paced. A recording of such repertoire is up against those of preceeding Chopin Competition royalty - Maurizio Pollini (1960), Martha Argerich (1965), Garrick Ohlsson (1970), Krystian Zimerman (1975), plus I see that the second prize winner of 2000, Ingrid Fliter, has a new recording of the Opus 28 Preludes. At this stage in her career Avdeeva is unlikely to have reached her ultimate statement re the work, but the performance is definitely a treat with each prelude given its own sense of personality.

One slightly disconcerting feature of the three Schubert pieces is a slight hesitation before some phrases; one hopes it doesn’t signal an emerging mannerism. Interestingly, she plays a version of the first piece reinstating a section Schubert later crossed out.

Prokofiev’s seventh sonata is the middle of his three wartime sonatas. The booklet notes its “barbaric energy” which the pianist must capture (as Avdeeva does) while still maintaining the shape of the work (which she also does). It is interesting to compare her performance to one by Sviatoslov Richter, the pianist who premiered the sonata in 1943; his has an extra degree of nervous energy, but hers is by no means flat or mechanical.

Speaking of Sviatoslav Richter: note that this was recorded in Tours, France. Just outside Tours is the medieval Grange de Meslay where Richter founded a festival (still ongoing) in 1964. To celebrate its 50th year, the festival is supporting this recording.

Ninety-one minutes is short timing for a two-CD set, but this seems to be a full and satisfying program that was too long for one CD and they decided not to include mere filler. And this way the Chopin Preludes have their own disc.

Michael Johnson




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