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CD Review

Russian Recital

  • Serge Prokofieff:
  • Piano Sonata #7, Op. 83
  • Piano Sonata #8, Op. 84
  • Igor Stravinsky:
  • Firebird (arr. Guido Agosti/Alexander Korsantia)
  • Infernal Dance of Kastchei
  • Lullaby
  • Finale
  • Tango
  • Circus Polka
Alexander Korsantia, piano
Piano Classics PCL0053 71min
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Alexander Korsantia burst onto the international scene with his 1995 victory at the Artur Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv. He had also won the important but less prestigious 1988 Sydney International Piano Competition. Korsantia is currently on the faculty at the New England Conservatory of Music. Obviously, he is a talented pianist and this recording documents his considerable keyboard skills.

He's a consistently interesting performer, if not always fully convincing: Korsantia brings out details many other pianists overlook and he generally phrases the music with the utmost sensitivity and awareness of the work's momentary yield as well as its ultimate trajectory. Yet, he can come across as eccentric in places: the alternate theme in the first movement of Prokofiev's 8th Piano Sonata is played so slowly as to almost fall apart, while the phrasing of the main theme in the 7th's second movement sounds a bit mechanical. Still, both sonatas get quite fine readings, especially considering their live-concert origins. (The Prokofiev 7th was recorded in Jerusalem's Henry Crown Symphony Hall in 1999 and the 8th in Tel Aviv's Museum of Art in 1995.) Korsantia's tempos are generally moderate to slow, while his dynamics tend toward the powerful side. Although there are better performances of these sonatas by Richter, Glemser, Raekallio, and others, these Korsantia efforts are exciting on their own terms and imaginative enough in approach to warrant attention. Pretty good sound reproduction despite audience coughs and other live-concert intrusions.

What might make this recording of even greater interest to potential buyers is the inclusion of several movements from Stravinsky's Firebird, as well as the 1940 Tango and 1942 Circus Polka. The Firebird pieces are imaginatively arranged by Busoni student Guido Agosti and Korsantia. The Tango and Circus Polka were originally written for piano by Stravinsky, and those are apparently the versions used here. At any rate, Korsantia's performance of the Infernal Dance of Kastchei is thrilling and the Lullaby and Finale are beautifully and sensitively played. The Tango is well played too, and the Circus Polka's humor, grace and satire (listen for the hilarious Schubert take-off near the end!) come through with an infectious if raucous charm. The Stravinsky pieces also derive from different live concerts: the Firebird was recorded in Tel-Aviv (Museum of Art) in 2004, the Tango in Toulouse in 2003, and the Circus Polka in Boston's Jordan Hall in 2012. Naturally, the sound is variable but generally quite fine. The notes by David Moncur are informative but he begins with an error: he refers to Prokofiev's last three sonatas as the 6th, 7th and 8th, but there was of course a 9th. Anyway, this is a fine recording worth the attention of Prokofiev and Stravinsky admirers.

Copyright © 2013, Robert Cummings