IGOR Lovchinsky - Debut Recording
Balance is the Key, October 13, 2008
By Hank Drake (Cleveland, OH United States) - See all my reviews
While dinosaur mainstream classical labels such as Sony/BMG and Deutsche Grammophon are busy reissuing their back catalogues (often for the umpteenth time) or promoting pianists of questionable musicality (Lang Lang), smaller labels have been searching for interesting artists to promote. Ivory Classics, started by pianist Earl Wild and his partner, Michael Rolland Davis, is one such label, and Igor Lovchinsky is one such pianist. The secret to playing Chopin's Mazurkas lies in balancing the dance elements with the fantasy/tone-poem aspects of the works. Vladimir Horowitz and William Kapell have been notably successful in this. Lovchingsky's imaginative interpretations bear in mind that the Mazurkas are, first and foremost, peasant dances. Lovchinsky favors formal clarity over romanticism in the Polonaise-Fantasie. There is little of the rubato heard in many performances of this piece, the pianist preferring a firm rhythmic hold and steady tempo. While many pianists use Scriabin as an excuse to engage in keyboard histrionics and near psychotic posturing, Lovchinsky plays the Sonatas 2, 5 and 9 as true sonatas - - and the great works they are. The pianist's performance of the early 2nd Sonata suits the ardor of the young Scriabin, and demonstrated why the composer was often referred to as the "Russian Chopin." I've never heard the 9th Sonata, the so-called "Black Mass" played with such a unified approach . Lovchinsky easily outdoes Ashkenazy's rather soggy reading, although for me Horowitz's satanic versions will always reign supreme in this work . Nevertheless, Lovchinsky's performances refute Aaron Copland's assertion that Scriabin's sonatas were "great mistakes" of the piano literature. Earl Wild's arrangements of several of Gershwin's songs are reflections of the popular works as heard through the ears of a super-virtuoso. It takes formidable technique, and sound musical judgment to balance the many pianistic layers and make the works "sound", and Lovchinsky succeeds here as few others have. Speaking of sound, Ivory Classics favors a microphone placement which is an ideal balance between intimacy and luxurious spaciousness. Lovchinsky's performances are helped by a beautifully tuned, voiced and regulated Shigeru Kawai piano. If only the major labels put out such excellent products.