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DVD Review

Marina Yakhlakova at Mechanics Hall

  • Franz Schubert: Piano Sonata, in A minor, D. 845
  • Franz Liszt: 8 Schubert Lieder Transcriptions
  • Ständchen
  • Die Forelle (2nd version)
  • Auf dem Wasser zu singen
  • Gretchen am spinnrade
  • Der Müller und der Bach
  • Die Stadt
  • Der Doppelgänger
  • Erlkönig
Marina Yakhlakova, piano
Master Performers MPI14002 DVD 80m PAL Format
Find it at Amazon

Moscow-based Marina Yakhlakova (b. 1991) captured first prize at the 2011 Franz Liszt International Piano Competition. Her teachers include Natalia Zdobnova at the Gnessin School of Music and Alexander Strukov at the Moscow State Conservatory. She recorded this DVD at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts in February, 2014. Performances were not derived from a live recital and thus probably involved several sessions.

From the evidence at hand here I would say Ms. Yakhlakova is a talented pianist with unusual interpretive acumen and a huge technique. She may well develop a major career on the world's concert stages. For this review I decided to make a few comparisons in the sonata with the performance of one of the world's most highly regarded Schubert interpreters, Mitsuko Uchida.

In the first movement Uchida offers attacks that are crisper, creates a greater sense of mystery and imparts more intensity. In short, her interpretation is darker, more agitated and neurotic, and more probing. In succeeding movements, her playing effervesces and is often witty, pointing up the quirkier side of Schubert to great effect. Yakhlakova is warmer, more Romantic, plays with more legato and conveys less sense of angst. Thus, she gives you a brighter take on the sonata, though many clouds remain in her sky. Yakhlakova may be a bit less colorful but she is more consistent, offering judicious tempo choices and a quite different and thoroughly valid take on this huge and multifaceted sonata. In the end, her performance is compelling, insightful and quite rewarding.

In the Liszt song transcriptions she plays with much the same approach: the lyrical themes brim with warmth and the music flows smoothly and with sensitivity to detail. Actually, Yakhlakova is more successful here, because these pieces are very lyrical, very…well, songful. Her warmer interpretive manner is ideally suited to these melody-rich and highly atmospheric works. In her hands Ständchen and Der Müller und der Bach are hauntingly beautiful in their forlorn character, and she subtly conveys the mystery and sinister character of Die Stadt with a wide range of dynamics and well-judged rubato. Actually, she makes the latter piece sound as much like Liszt as Schubert. Her Die Forelle (Trout) is bright and ebullient, but also features many imaginatively-phrased reflective moments. This charming piece, of course, shares a famous theme in common with the fourth movement of Schubert's Trout Quintet. Overall, her accounts of these lieder transcriptions are imaginative and very well played. There have been many recordings of these various pieces by Lazar Berman, Leslie Howard, Oxana Yablonskaya, Valerie Tryon and others, but Yakhlakova's renditions can generally stand with the best versions. One thing you notice about her in all the repertory here is that she is a very self-effacing artist, choosing to interpret the music with feeling and intelligence, rather than use it as a vehicle for virtuosic grandstanding.

The camera work, picture clarity and sound reproduction on this DVD are first rate. I should point out to potential buyers from North America, Japan and South Korea that this DVD is in PAL format and thus will not likely play on most DVD/Blu-ray players purchased in those countries. However, the disc is playable on many computer DVD drives. Thus, it would be best to check compatibility features of your equipment before committing to purchase.

Copyright © 2014, Robert Cummings