Piano Sonata No.15 in D, Op.28 (Pastoral)
Piano Sonata in B flat, D960
Impromptu in G flat, D899/3
Tatiana Nikolayeva (piano)
Recordings made in BBC Studios – Beethoven on 18 January 1993 in London, Schubert on 9 December 1991 in Glasgow
Reviewed by: Colin Clarke
Reviewed: November 2009
CD No: BBC LEGENDS
Duration: 74 minutes
Any document of the artistry of Tatiana Nikolayeva (1924-1993) is bound to be, at the very least, stimulating. A pupil of Alexander Goldenweiser at the Moscow Conservatory, her playing exemplifies perfectly the use of the pedal, the exactitude of articulation and the serious approach to repertoire that is so typical of Russian pianists. She recorded all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas – and here is a supplemental ‘Pastoral’ (recorded, with an audience, in the year of her death) that is no carefree stroll through green pastures. There is passion as well as a significantly organised approach that, whilst evident in the first movement, comes truly into its own for the Andante. Perhaps other musicians have found more humour in the scherzo (which heard from this angle could have been written expressly for Alfred Brendel). Here, it is rugged rather than gruffly playful. The finale finds Nikolayeva’s giving underlying strength in the gently rocking motif and, at each available opportunity, drags this strength out to the music’s surface. This is a wholly individual account of the ‘Pastoral’ Sonata, one to be treasured and admired on its own merits.
The Schubert, however, is the gem of this release. True to the spirit of late Schubert and yet in no way needlessly indulgent, this is a reading that deserves classic status. It provides a real alternative to the placid world of Mitsuko Uchida’s excellent version for Philips, for example. Fire underlies the first movement. No inferno, to be sure, but a riveting sense of motion that exists through a still-youthful impetuosity. Contrasts are heightened, with some of Schubert’s writing emerging as distinctly angular – and indeed, forward-looking – in outlook. The first movement emerges as remarkably varied, unsettlingly so. Moments that from most pianists are usually jaunty here offer no respite at all. The word that springs to mind is “harrowing”. (Nikolayeva observes the repeat of the exposition.) The barren slow movement, if not of the same desolation as Uchida, is nevertheless disturbing in its bareness, and its relentlessness. There is no central plateau of calm here; similarly, the trio of the scherzo speaks directly of unrest of the soul. The finale is appropriately (for Nikolayeva’s reading) dark. Heard immediately after the B flat Sonata, the G flat Impromptu takes on a distinctly wintery feel. There is beauty aplenty, but never for its own sake.
There are no complaints regarding the sound, which is faithfully re-mastered, with nothing to detract from Nikolayeva’s magnificence.