ABC Classics 461 654-2 (2-CD)
reviewed by Neville Cohn
A 2-CD pack on the ABC Classics label is devoted to performances recorded during the 2000 Sydney International Piano Competition, including those of top laureate Marina Kolomiitseva’s astonishingly persuasive account of Liszt’s Grande Etudes de Paganini. They mark her irrefutably as a worthy winner; these excruciatingly taxing pieces hold few fears for the young Russian who invests each of these studies with poetic insights. Her virtuosity is extraordinary, her hands sweeping up and down the keyboard as nonchalantly as if dusting the furniture. This, as well as faultless tremolo (which gives an imperious quality to the playing), makes “Etude No 2” unforgettable, an amalgam of dazzling flourishes and heart-easingly expressive filigree arabesques. In “Etude No 4”, staccato notes evoke images of sparks in stygian darkness. Kolomiitseva is triumphant, too, in Tchaikowsky’s Concerto in B flat minor – and how wonderfully she invigorates this most tired of war horses. Drawing from a deep well of expressiveness, Kolomiitseva, whether expounding the concerto’s lyrical qualities or hurling great bolts of sound, Zeus-like, at the ear, plays as if the work were specially written for her.
Also spilling out of this splendid musical cornucopia is Vera Kameneva’s account of Mozart’s K467 in C, now known to millions as the Elvira Madigan Concerto. A born Mozart player, Kameneva brings an exultant quality to the opening of the work. Often, the presentation pulses with vitality, as meaningful in its way as delicato note-streams, fragile as gossamer. And the finale glows with power. Christopher Hogwood, too, sounds in his element as he directs the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Yet another instance of high calibre keyboard ability is Evgeny Ukhanov who gives a near-perfect assessment of the music in Rachmaninov’s Concerto in D minor.