Katya Apekisheva at Wigmore Hall [D537, Kinderszenen, Halo, Pictures at an Exhibition]

Piano Sonata in A minor, D537
Kinderszenen, Op.15
Pictures at an Exhibition

Katya Apekisheva (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 22 December, 2011
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Katya ApekishevaMoscow-born Katya Apekisheva opened her Wigmore Hall recital with an impressive account of a lesser-known (but not lesser) Schubert piano sonata. The opening Allegro enjoyed poise, controlled energy, a wide dynamic range, and subtleties of touch, Apekisheva exploring the music’s interior as much as its vitality. With the middle movement, one of Schubert’s ‘walking tunes’ (and re-visited by him in D959), Apekisheva took things lightly, developing lyricism with shape and feeling while being alive to complements and diversions. The shadows of the finale were conveyed en passant within echt-Viennese dance-rhythms.

Following this large-scale reading of Schubert, the Schumann was less successful. Although poetic and sensitive, Apekisheva was too self-conscious in phrasing, the occasional further-slowing and some phrasal hesitations bordering on mannerism. ‘Träumerei’ was a simple success though, and the final ‘Der Dichter Spricht’ would have been more affecting if the pianist hadn’t already (tried to) pre-empt its depth of feeling. In a reading that lost these ‘Scenes from Childhood’ their innocence and extemporisation, the quicker numbers came off best, particularly the elfin approach to ‘Hasche-Mann’. At the end of the evening, Schumann’s ‘Warum?’ (from Fantasiestücke, Opus 12) responded more convincingly to Apekisheva’s expansive approach for a well-chosen winding-down encore.

Before Pictures, Apekisheva played Dobrinka Tabakova’s Halo (1999). Despite the pianist’s committed advocacy, this 10-minute piece failed to engage: initial repetitions palled very quickly and the ears then only responded to those passages that had already been claimed by Prokofiev and Debussy. The Mussorgsky (recorded by Apekisheva for Onyx, and due in the Spring) opened with the spectator in haste, too eager to see the canvases, ‘Gnomus’ neither gawky nor malevolent enough. But ‘The Old Castle’ was nicely misty and told tales of yore. From here on in, even if the ‘Promenade’ could return in matter-of-fact fashion, the descriptions were vivid: ‘Bydlo’ was lugubrious and stoical, rising to fervent heights; ‘Ballet of unhatched chicks’ helter-skelter (superb trills, too); ‘Samuel Goldenberg’ pompous and well-dressed, ‘Schmuyle’ pathetic in his shivering; ‘The Market at Limoges’ a flurry of well-aimed notes; ‘Catacombs’ resonated from the depths; ‘Hut on Fowl’s Legs’ was a furious and biting ride; and ‘Great Gate of Kiev’ was solemn, a religious ceremony, pealing to triumph.

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