Evgenia Rubinova

Fantasy in F minor, Op.49
Fantasien, Op.116
Kreisleriana, Op.16
Fantasy in B minor, Op.28

Evgenia Rubinova (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 27 October, 2006
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Evgenia Rubinova is good at crowd control, as stretches of Kreisleriana demonstrated – the proverbial pin, had one been dropped, would have been heard. The Schumann and Scriabin works made up part two of Rubinova’s recital and found her in scintillating and vivid form.

The first half was not quite as consistently successful, which is not to disregard the thoughtfulness and relish that Rubinova brought to Chopin’s Fantasy. If there was some splashy playing this was compensated for by Rubinova generating an of-the-moment maelstrom of emotion; if some ornaments were rather ‘crushed’ and the twice-recurring march-like episode, while ideal in tempo, found the right-hand more dominant than the left (they should be equal), this was communicative music-making.

Brahms’s Opus 116 Piano Pieces grouped as ‘fantasies’ – the overall title of this recital – found Rubinova both heroic and sensitive and demonstrating a poise and harmonic clarity that grew in generosity across the seven intermezzos and capriccios: the Intermezzo that is number five of the sequence (Andante con grazia ed intimissimo sentimento) found Rubinova essaying this music with a big heart, as she did the next-up Andantino teneramente.

Schumann’s fantastical cycle of eight pieces after E. T. A. Hoffmann is music that leaps off the page (or should do) and which is tempered by romance; it has a most attractive champion in Rubinova, whose shapely, poetic and fiery playing is at-one with Schumann’s impetuous and vulnerable expression. Her playing here had a melt-in-the-mouth quality, and a simple eloquence (more said with less), which compelled attention; real depth of feeling was evident in ‘Sehr langsam’ (No.6) as was some scintillating virtuosity (but not mere display) in the succeeding ‘Sehr rasch’. And, as on her recording of Kreisleriana, she produced a memorable veiled and distant pianissimo in the opening number; good to hear the same effect achieved live.

That recording, on EMI’s laudable Debut series (3 53234 2), is very recommendable and also collects the Chopin and Brahms works played at this recital. In comparison with those (fine) dedicated studio performances, Rubinova has ‘moved on’ a little in her responses and showed she can add spontaneity to her already considered view of the music. (Rubinova takes part in Brahms’s “Ein deutsches Requiem” in the composer’s arrangement of the orchestral parts for two pianos, on EMI 3 66948 2.)

The Scriabin was ‘new’, therefore, and ended the advertised recital in both concentrated and expansive style, Rubinova enjoying Scriabin’s hot-house style and delivering an elemental account. Two Chopin preludes were played as encores, the last of the 24 was coruscating if not especially tragic, the doom-laden bell effect at the close rather thrown away, and the E major Prelude, for all Rubinova’s quiet majesty, doesn’t really ‘work’ when divorced. A glittering and authoritative account of the fourth piece of Rachmaninov’s Moment musicaux (Opus 16) brought this memorable recital to a resounding close.

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