Deux morceaux, Op.10
Dumka (Scène rustique russe), Op.59
Andante maestoso (Nutcracker Suite, Op.71a arr. Pletnev)
Sonata in G, Op.37
Ayako Uehara (piano)
Recorded September 2003 in St Georges, Bristol
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: May 2004
CD No: EMI 5577192
Duration: 68 minutes
Tchaikovsky’s piano music is surprisingly neglected. Although The Seasons gets an occasional airing (or movements from it, each depicting a month), the chances of hearing his very attractive short pieces are rare, so too the large-scale G major sonata. Therefore Ayako Uehara’s recital embracing a selection from Tchaikovsky’s salon-type pieces and the ambitious sonata is very welcome, especially as she plays with sensitivity, insight and commitment, and is excellently recorded in the sympathetic acoustic of St George’s, Bristol.
Tchaikovsky’s melodic gifts didn’t desert him when composing trifles, nor did his soulful expression – as can be easily heard in the Dumka, which is quite extended in length and emotion. Uehara plays it with concentration and, in the faster sections, a bravura that doesn’t step into mere display. The opening Valse is gently introduced, Uehara’s lightness of touch and sense of fantasy immediately establishing her appreciative credentials for this music; and the first of the Deux morceaux, which Stravinsky used in The Fairy’s Kiss, has an appealing skittish quality.
The Valse-Scherzo, not to be confused with the same-title work for violin, has its Chopin ‘moments’ but, really, it couldn’t be by anyone other than Tchaikovsky, and the so-called ‘Andante maestoso’ from Nutcracker is actually the ‘Pas de deux’ from Act Two, which here ripples and emotes amazingly well despite being orchestra-less.
The sonata is commendably performed, its largesse well conveyed without fracturing the structure, Uehara meeting the work’s heroic and intimate demands, and conjuring a range of sonority and dynamics that reveal this fine work in all its glory. A good new recording of this sonata is needed – and Uehara delivers it, fully commanding in the first movement, tenderly reflective and ardently climactic in the slow movement, feather-light in the brief scherzo (something of a relative to its counterpart in Chopin’s B minor sonata), and dashing and articulate in the propulsive finale.
Japanese pianist Ayako Uehara, born in 1980, won First Prize in the 2002 International Tchaikovsky Competition. Her dedication to this composer is admirably captured on this CD, an impressive and immensely likeable release from a pianist that one hopes to hear more of.