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Anna Vinnitskaya Plays Prokofi


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Product Details

  • Performer: Vinnitskaya; Deutsche Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin; Varga
  • Composer: Prokofiev; Ravel
  • Audio CD (Oct. 26 2010)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nvv
  • ASIN: B003TH0COK
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #112,461 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 2 in g minor, Andantino-Allegretto
2. Scherzo: Vivace
3. Intermezzo: Allegro
4. Allegro tempestoso
5. Maurice Ravel: Piano Concerto in G Major, Allegramente
6. Adagio assai
7. Presto

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This meaty CD is the second by the young Russian pianist Anna Vinnitskaya, winner of the 2007 Queen Elizabeth International Music Competition. Prokofiev's four-movement piano concerto in g minor opens quietly with a haunting melody developed with great force by piano and orchestra. The first movement, Andantino Allegretto, builds to a long and very demanding cadenza in which Vinnitskaya carries a full palette of shimmering color in her hands. A four-minute second movement, Scherzo Vivace, starts at a fast clip and continues its relentless path up a flight of sixteenth notes. The third movement, Intermezzo: Allegro, starts with heavy, sinister pounding from percussion and piano, which forecasts a parade of Soviet tanks for this listener. (The work was composed in 1913, just before the Russian revolution.) Another long cadenza tests the soloist's stamina. The fourth movement, Allegro tempestoso, ends in a blazing glissando at the keyboard. The work demands strong hands and nerves as well as bravery. (Vinnitskaya's impressive display of steely fingers and searching heart can be seen in her concert performance of the finale posted on YouTube on March 3, 2008.)
Ravel's Piano Concerto in G major is a pretty thing that starts with a whiplash. A trumpet calls out to the audience and a jazzy theme reminiscent of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue enters and then leaves. A harp twinkles brightly. The second movement, Adagio Assai, introduces a lovely, dreamy melody the composer himself attributed to Mozart (in the Larghetto of the Clarinet Quintet.) This unwinds slowly by the pianist over many measures. The orchestra wraps around this theme until finally everyone is wandering around in the same Ravelian dream state. The third movement, Presto, opens with a whip crack and ends in a scampering chase up the keyboard with a boom from timpani.
In this recording, Vinnitskaya shows us why she is not only a star, but a serious musical collaborator.
Ted Wilks
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Best Prokofiev 2nd ever? Nov. 16 2010
By Steen Mencke - Published on Amazon.com
The Prokofiev second piano concerto has increased its popularity over the last 20 years, and in the Belgian Queen Elisabeth Piano Competition it is by now the concerto most often played in the finale by the winner. Abdel Rahman El Bacha did it in 1978, Severin von Eckardstein did it in 2003, and this year Denis Kozhukhin did it too. In 2007 it was Anna Vinnitskaya's turn to ride this particular war horse to glory, though I personally found her performance in the finale to be forced and in places badly coordinated with the orchestra. Maybe she herself felt that she deserved a return game, because this autumn she produced this disc (same conductor as in the competition, different orchestra) which puts all earlier critisism to shame and shows both pianist and music in the best possible light.

The concerto in G minor is a troubled work, full of both sorrow and anger, and it takes not just considerable technical skills but also a great artist to give it the treatment it deserves. In this recording everything - soloist, conductor, orchestra, recording technique - comes together to produce a true reference to be revered by all who love this music. The tempi are just right in every movement, and the brillance of the piano playing never blurs the fact that we are dealing with serious matters. The beginning of the third movement that in other recordings has reminded me of somebody trying to drag a dead cow up a mountain by the tail, is here truly both ominous and mischievous, and I guarantee that the tour de force of the finale will take you breath away. The huge five minute candenza of the first movement sounds in places almost stifled with grief (before this only von Eckardstein has dared to be this emotional), and still one must marvel at the absolutely flawless playing of this torrent of notes that has defied many a concert pianist over the years. The soloist is spotlighted just enough to let us enjoy passages that are usually drowned by the orchestra, and with a sound that is impressively full and at the same time razor sharp full marks have to go to the Naïve sound engineers as well.

After a performance like that, one rather expects the Ravel G major concerto to disappoint - especially with the many first-class recordings of this work available - but here as well I find it all but impossible to put my finger on anything I should like to change. There is charm and fleet-footed merriment galore, while the nocturnal adagio assai (played wonderfully "chaud-froi"), like the tolling of the grandfather clock in Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death", demands silent introspection in the midst of care-free fun and dance. In other words: Ravel at his best, and amazingly well served.

To sum up let me just say: this is a disc you simply have to have - beg, steal or borrow. If it is not THE version of the Prokofiev concerto (and I hope the question-mark in the heading will save me from some of the fatwas that might otherwise be brought down on me) I have not quite met its match so far. Give it a shot and if you disagree significantly, please let me know who does it better. I've tried Ashkenazy, Rudy, Krainjew, Gutiérrez, Paik, Bronfman, Toradze, Feltsman, Kissin and even Marshev - and some, to be sure, are not bad, but ... Anna Vinnitskaya is a new star on the horizon; no doubt about it.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Vinnitskaya, DSO, Varga: Prokofiev P Cto 2 + Ravel G Major: Weighty, Detailed Readings - Ear Opening? Feb. 9 2011
By drdanfee - Published on Amazon.com
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This disc is a winner, as the other positive reviews suggest. We get a Prokofiev second piano concerto that is just the slightest bit slower than a full-tilt, sizzling, extroverted, virtuoso manner would require; allowing bucket loads of nuance, inflection, and musically evocative tonal color with detail to more fully emerge from the keyboard and the band departments. The pianist is Anna Vinnitskaya, a new artist to me. She is now fully registering on my new artists radar screens; I'm keep an open ear, cocked in her direction like my old Boxer companion, hearing noises in the night that more often than not, utterly eluded my regular beastly attention.

Our conductor is Gilbert Varga. He seems fully involved, and appositely in tune with his soloist.

Suddenly the Prokofiev second concerto sounds more interactive and integrated than usual; not really one of those whiz-bang modernist-post-Lisztian solo outings for the piano (Prokofiev's first piano concerto?), so much as a melancholy set of soulful and interesting Russian-Slavic changes rung on the received legacy of the 19th century piano concerto; a piano concerto now abounding with musical lights and shadows, deeper, weightier. In some way, this is akin to the sort of reading we might have expected to come from, say, Sviatoslav Richter in a certain mood?

Given that the composer is Prokofiev: Yes, we do get those typical, passing moments of motoric athletics, along with the witty-acerbic harmonies - all sounding modern yet skillfully related as music to other family members like Liszt, Schumann, Mendelssohn, or Anton Rubenstein. The gusto with which Vinnitskaya dives into everything in the notes (and, in between the notes?) suggests that she could manage the regular, extroverted manner in Prokofiev, but doesn't have to do so, because she and her conductor and her band have internalized a different view of the concerto. Her reading is not a cover for any technical limitations, so much as an alternate musical vision. A viable, convincing vision - to my ears.

If her Andantino is ever so slightly slowed, it is not by much; her Allegretto contrasts aptly, and she can dig into muscular and emphatic regions, as well as those previously noted shadowy and darker colored tonal realms - pretty much as needed. When the opening motif returns, it is both a formal-structural recollection, plus a reaching, edgy song that sinks in, with the passing force of deeper, cutting loss, protest, lament. Vinnitskaya uses that multi-dimensional musical through-line as her core, shaping, organizing the rather elaborate, cadenza-like piano figurations.

The second piano concerto gives off cinematic flashes, too, like a sort of Warsaw Concerto, written better as music. By the time the orchestra joins in, Forte, we are on the same tragic gestural page - bystanders who have become entangled in the crisis and aftermath.

The Scherzo takes off, glinting lights and muscular riffs. The trumpet punctuations connect Prokofiev with Shostakovich yet to be published. The harmony's chromatic oscillations ground us in recognizeable Prokofiev - the first symphony, the Romeo and Juliet ballet score, the third piano concerto waiting, imminent in the composer's wings. It is played, all of piece, charging right through.

The Intermezzo is bigger than the name provides - more pesante, emphatic chords and flourishes from the piano, angry, even snarling or growling. Lights and shadows take over again - making this third movement another unfolding part of the emerging concerto whole. As musical textures lighten up, the sounds are closer to what the name, Intermezzo, names for us listeners in western classical concerto traditions. An operatic sort of intermezzo is also connoted; a lightening rustle of disingenuous musical themes and pages, giving us some breathing space. We all know, nonetheless, that the larger story of the opera's tragic drama looms before us in heartfelt time and space.

The fourth movement takes off, a gymnastic routine athletic-balanced - and a fugue, though it is not an actual fugue. Spare chords high and low from the piano ting like bells, and suddenly we arrive at music that sounds like a Slavic folk song melody. The piano has grown softer, baritonal, though Vinnitskaya eventually rises, elaborating. As the band woodwinds take up the main melody, piano figurations seem to remind us that the pulse of this music is actually still flowing fast, beating much faster than the woodwind and strings circles of pensive melody would sound, on their own, apart. As the band fades away, we again realize that we are with the piano in a sort of fourth movement cadenza. Vinnitskaya is exploring jazz-like (Thelonius Monk?) transformations of the harmony and the intervals that have been the bones and muscle and bloodlines of this second concerto, though none of her cadenza is in the least blue or jazzy. The orchestra rejoins, rather as a partner in the cadenza transformations. The music speeds up, highlighting the composer's marking, "tempestuoso." How shall we make it back to home base? Who knows? A concluding chord in piano and orchestra signals: Finished. (I've not before noticed possible parallels between this fourth movement and, say, Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini? Both as to the intellectual and emotional sense of a series of musical variations, and the sound of the impishly abrupt ending page?)

As played by Vinnitskaya and company, the Ravel G Major piano concerto sounds like closer musical kin to Prokofiev and to Bartok - at least some of the time, in passing. At least. Much that is customary and familiar in the Ravel music still comes across as expected - blues harmonies, jazzy cheek, sudden bursts of waterfront dive popular song that strike our ears as surprisingly colorful, evocative, dazzling, and, beautiful. The slow middle movement motif - so difficult in its spare simplicities - is expertly paced: slow enough to keep us hanging on each note as if hearing the tune improvised for the first time, fast enough to keep the larger sad-musing shape, intact and communicative. Woodwinds join the piano as contained in this same musical cosmos, world and galactic musical stars all still spinning. Then the strings, too. Baroque-like, Bach-like piano figurations take us into suspended, floating harmonies, then up and down and sideways as the aching melody returns to Ravel's musical spotlight, gradually winding us home as piano trills sparkle and shine. The final movement leaps out of the starting gate, athletic in various poses while the band goes all bluesy and jazzy. The music ebbs, flows, builds. Our concerto train is flying along the tracks, Paris to Moscow to St. Petersburg and back. Four chords and a ketteldrum boom wrap up the Ravel-ian itinerary.

For a fast comparison in the Prokofiev second concerto, I pulled down the SACD with Gavrilyuk in Australia, Ashkenazy conducting Sydney. The super audio disc is far more vividly recorded in five high resolution channels; Gavrilyuk casts his own committed musical spell. Tempos are not that far apart from Vinnitskaya and Varga in Germany. Gavrilyuk plays the piano figurations with more resonance, more rubato - creating a palpable sense of performance keyboard manners, gone deeply affectionate for legendary virtuoso Anton Rubenstein as a precursor - less like Bartok, closer kin to Rachmaninoff? The keeper shelf has room for both Gavrilyuk and Vinnitskaya.

For Ravel comparisons, I pulled down Idil Biret. Immersed in French piano traditions from her long past days at the conservatoire and her mentoring by the legendary Nadia Boulanger, Biret plays the concerto more like we would expect, as if her piano part were related to the rest of Ravel's solo piano music. Sounds and manners sandwiched in, between Saint-Saens and Poulenc-Milhaud-Roussel?

Okay, all back to the keeper shelves. I'm on the lookout for more Vinnitskaya concertos ... the other four Prokofievs for sure. Stars.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding new disc of 20th Century piano concertos Jan. 28 2011
By Dean Frey - Published on Amazon.com
Following a well-reviewed debut CD of meaty Russian music for solo piano, Anna Vinnitskaya returns with a very strong concerto disc on the Naive label. The Prokofiev 2nd Piano Concerto has had its share of fine versions on disc; Martha Argerich, and Horacio Gutierrez stand out for me. The new performance of this concerto master-work is not at all out of place in that company. And in the Ravel, a special favourite of mine, Vinnitskaya is right up there with Argerich, and even Michelangeli.

Reading Vinnitskaya's reviews from her major competition triumphs beginning in 2007 to her recent concerts and recordings, it wasn't surprising to hear such accomplished playing, with the widest range of power and delicacy. I was also impressed, though, with the orchestral accompaniment of Gilbert Varga and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchestrer Berlin, especially in the Prokofiev; and with the sound provided by the Naive producers and engineers. While the real focus of the Prokofiev work is in the piano part, the Ravel Concerto is as much about the virtuosity of the orchestra as that of the pianist. Though Varga lets the energy falter just a bit in the middle of Ravel's brilliant first movement, this is a fine performance overall, with excellent playing from both individual instruments and the whole orchestra.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Prokofiev Ravel piano concertos Anna Vinnitskaya Nov. 20 2010
By E. S. Wilks - Published on Amazon.com
This meaty CD is the second by the young Russian pianist Anna Vinnitskaya, winner of the 2007 Queen Elizabeth International Music Competition. Prokofiev's four-movement piano concerto in g minor opens quietly with a haunting melody developed with great force by piano and orchestra. The first movement, Andantino Allegretto, builds to a long and very demanding cadenza in which Vinnitskaya carries a full palette of shimmering color in her hands. A four-minute second movement, Scherzo Vivace, starts at a fast clip and continues its relentless path up a flight of sixteenth notes. The third movement, Intermezzo: Allegro, starts with heavy, sinister pounding from percussion and piano, which forecasts a parade of Soviet tanks for this listener. (The work was composed in 1913, just before the Russian revolution.) Another long cadenza tests the soloist's stamina. The fourth movement, Allegro tempestoso, ends in a blazing glissando at the keyboard. The work demands strong hands and nerves as well as bravery. (Vinnitskaya's impressive display of steely fingers and searching heart can be seen in her concert performance of the finale posted on YouTube on March 3, 2008.)
Ravel's Piano Concerto in G major is a pretty thing that starts with a whiplash. A trumpet calls out to the audience and a jazzy theme reminiscent of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue enters and then leaves. A harp twinkles brightly. The second movement, Adagio Assai, introduces a lovely, dreamy melody the composer himself attributed to Mozart (in the Larghetto of the Clarinet Quintet.) This unwinds slowly by the pianist over many measures. The orchestra wraps around this theme until finally everyone is wandering around in the same Ravelian dream state. The third movement, Presto, opens with a whip crack and ends in a scampering chase up the keyboard with a boom from timpani.
In this recording, Vinnitskaya shows us why she is not only a star, but a serious musical collaborator.
Ted Wilks

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