Variations in F minor
Sonata in G [Hoboken 11]
Sonata in F [Hob 23]
Sonata in C [Hob 50]
Sonata in C minor [Hob 20]
Evgeny Koroliov (piano)
Recorded in July and October 2004; no information as to location is documented
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: November 2005
CD No: PROFIL PH04060
Duration: 77 minutes
Before this release arrived, I must admit to not being aware of Evgeny Koroliov (Evgeni in Profil’s presentation). I had assumed him to be a young musician beginning to make his name. I was wrong! Koroliov was born in 1949. His biography reports that he is highly regarded as an interpreter of Bach; and, indeed, his recording of The Art of Fugue has drawn particular praise from György Ligeti. So, I am not sure where I have been! Nevertheless, I am delighted to make Koroliov’s acquaintance now, and also in one of the supreme composers.
The CD’s opening work is the Variations, of which Koroliov gives a serious and spacious reading, one that is immensely stylish; and with all repeats observed, this anyway-significant work is made into something substantial and searching. Koroliov’s poise and the way he builds the piece with control and intensity to an emotional culmination is impressive.
The four sonatas are no less engrossing. Koroliov is alive to the variety of character that these four works possess. His fingers sparkle in fast movements and sing in the slow ones. His playing is eminently straightforward, and always lucid, yet one is aware of numerous perceptions regarding dynamics and in distilling the essence of the music. Koroliov appreciates the urbanity of the earlier sonatas here, yet invests the modest Andante of the G major with an unaffected line that also carries an emotional thrall; and the outer movements of the F major have a wit that encloses an especially expressive Adagio.
With the two sonatas that would be included amongst Haydn’s greatest, Koroliov’s tempos are judicious and his detailing immaculate. The spacious tempo for the C major’s Adagio is justified through Koroliov’s depth of feeling, which is in his touch rather than through phrasal intervention. Maybe the opening to the C minor work isn’t as disquieting as it can be – maybe, too, silent bars are held longer than necessary – but there’s an enquiring mind at work here and Koroliov shapes the Andante con moto (at a tempo well under what that marking would suggest) with just enough pathos to sustain it.
If he isn’t as vibrant in Haydn as, say, Alfred Brendel and Alain Planès, Koroliov provides here thoughtful, skilled and satisfying accounts that will be returned to with pleasure. And the recording is excellent in its immediacy and intimacy while avoiding dryness and intimidation.