Evgeny Koroliovʼs Golberg variations have become a cult recording. Seldom has this monumental piece sounded so purely musical, with such natural rhetorics, in fact simply so beautiful as in his hands. This recording was showered with international prizes, such as Diapason dʼor and others. György Ligeti chose Koroliovʼs Bach as his desert island disc : “forsaken and dying of thirst, I would listen to it up ʻtil my last breath”. Koroliov was born in Russia in 1949, his teachers were Maria Yudina, Heinrich Neuhaus and Lev Oborin. He soon settled in Hamburg/Germany, from where he developed his international career as a soloist and much-in-demand teacher.
The back cover of this Czech release promises "certainly the most intense chamber programme that might be dedicated to the joint memory of Sviatoslav Richter and Dmitry Shostakovich," and the performances live up to the billing. The first half of the program is given over to a pair of string quartets from the year 1960, around the point where Shostakovich's inward turn following his denunciation by Soviet cultural commissars merged with his reflections on the violence of modern war to create a uniquely modern tragic dialogue.
Over the past five years, pianist Anna Vinnitskaya has made three Alpha recordings dedicated to Shostakovitch, Brahms et Rachmaninov. Evgeni Koroliov is a great master of the piano, a great Bach specialist, whose recordings of Bach are an acclaimed benchmark. His piano duo with his wife, Ljupka Hadzi-Georgieva, has made its mark over the past few years in all the major international concert venues. Also a highly reputed teacher, Koroliov was Anna Vinnitskaya’s professor at Hamburg.
Christopher Czaja Sager is highly regarded by music critics on both sides of the Atlantic: “Christopher Czaja Sager is truly perceptive, sensitive and imaginative and a deeply-gifted musician of rare qualities and values. He is worthy of the highest expectations and highest values”.
Since its first authorized edition in 1741 or 1742, the Goldberg is indispensable to any serious keyboard professionals, and with the dawn of the recording age, the Goldberg has naturally attracted a league of pianists who wish to put their personal statements onto this symbolic work. Pianists who acquired a legacy in part through their championship in this work include such Bach interpreters as Glenn Gould (Sony, 1955), Evgeny Koroliov (Hänssler, 1999), Maria Tipo (EMI, 1986) and the late Rosalyn Tureck (DGG, 1985), whose interpretation of the Goldberg she claimed was inspired by a visionary communication between the pianist and a higher being. To date, the Goldberg has likewise drawn the interests of a multitude of arrangers who have re-worked arrangements based on the original.
There's nothing at all wrong with Maurizio Pollini's 2009 performance of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1. The Italian pianist's intellectual lucidity, interpretive clarity, and technical virtuosity are apparent in every prelude and fugue, and his probing insights and penetrating analysis inform every note. However, there is almost nothing right with the sound quality of the recording. The piano sounds too distant, making it hard to hear precisely what Pollini is doing, but oddly, the ambient sound is too present, making every extraneous noise too loud. One should not hear the pedals being pressed and lifted, much less the clatter of the hammers and the twanging of the strings above the sound of the music. Worse yet, one can hear what sounds like every breath Pollini takes nearly as loudly as every note he plays. These are all grievous flaws that should have been eliminated, and their presence fatally undermines the brilliance of Pollini's performances. A reengineered version of these performances would be most welcome, but the present recording is so flawed that it virtually destroys Pollini's playing.
The pianist Anna Vinnitskaya has built up an impressive discography since her victory at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 2007: Bach, Brahms, Ravel, and of course the Russian composers with whom she has been familiar since her childhood in Novorossiysk, then her studies with Evgeni Koroliov. She has now made her first Chopin recording, coupling the four Ballades, a cross between the miniature and the sonata, with the four Impromptus he composed at different periods of his life, between 1835 and 1842.