It is always fascinating to see artists develop as human beings and how it affects their art. Classic repertoire could be at times imposing since many giants have played it and comparisons are the norm. Perhaps that's what I meant when I suggested in my review of Ms Ponomarėva's Schubert/Liszt second CD release, I believed she could even go farther, be freer in her vision.
Well Alfred Schnittke's piano music has not been extensively recorded and thus is an open field to set your record straight as an artist. The qualities displayed by Ms Ponomarėva seem to fully blossom in her third recording. That is why this one gets the full mark, 5 stars in my opinion.
She definitely set the reference for the Sonata (1988). Her conductor approach so successful in her Liszt here takes control of this incredible piece of music: this is a full blown orchestra reading, not one note is devoid of meaning.
Her ability to live through Schnittke's extreme changes from the intimate to the universal without giving the impression that she is on that path, thus creating the surprise, is so natural that the piece feels like it has been part of the repertoire for centuries.
I agree with previous reviews here that no other recording of that piece comes even close to this performance.
Little Piano Pieces are another aspect of Schnittke's music and the mischievous Ponomarėva brings a fresh and tender feel to them.
The recording sound is the best yet and the natural acoustic of the hall is perfect for these pieces.
Finally the last piece on the CD is a live recording -sadly of lesser sound quality- of a concert given in the soloist's hometown in Russia, three years ago, conducted by a friend of Schnittke -who passed away later that year-. Although many recordings of the Concerto for Piano & Strings exist, this high octane version is virtually a bonus and confirms that Ms Ponomarėva's interest in this music was indeed deep and thoughtful, not a marketing trick. The Sonata benefited from these years of maturing.
One also appreciated the tactful homage to the conductor, Yuri Nikolaevsky and found healthy to discover an artist who serves the composer first, and doesn't consider him as the sidekick of an egotistical trip...