Schubert: Piano Sonatas 13, 14 & 16 - Margolina
Ars Produktion ARS 38 312
Classical - Instrumental
Schubert: Piano Sonatas 13, 14 & 16
Elena Margolina, piano
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - February 3, 2021
Within a week I got hold of two pianists from Russia having recorded for the ARS Produktion label, being each other’s opposite in every sense but one: They are both very good, albeit in a different way.
Elina Margolina, discussed here, got her concert diploma in St. Petersburg, finishing her studies ‘summa cum laude’ in Detmold, Germany. She earned her many laurels during an already distinguished career ever since she won a Schubert contest in 1995. Almost naturally maturing into a true interpreter of Schubert, she doesn’t have to prove anything other than to continue to bring us the best of herself. In contrast, Ivan Bessonow, reviewed here: Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev - Bessonov, is a young and coming talent, bursting with daredevil energy and vivacity, willing to tackle anything no matter how difficult, in a spontaneously risky manner.
In my book, there are only a handful pianists who are able to master Schubert’s sonatas to a level of superlative excellence. It is not sufficient to play the score with all the markings, repeats, and correct use of the pedals. It is not the technical aspect, but a deep understanding of Schubert’s personality that should come first. If the interpreter is not able to keep the attention of the listener during the often lengthy (40-50 minutes) and fragmented tale, the story gets lost, if not to say: Boring.
That said, scholars, and there are numerous, do not agree on how to best interpret the sonatas. And on top of that such eminent pianists as Alfred Brendel and Claudio Arrau preferred their own ideas as well. Their highly acclaimed accounts are nonetheless both considered to be among the sublimation of the ‘art’ of keeping the musical fabric and the magical tension of Schubert’s poetry intact from start to finish. Best performance is not about technique, but rather about understanding and feeling. Both had it. And that’s where Elina Magolina joins in, too.
In a previous review about her approach to Schubert, I said: ”Sometimes one comes across an artist with whom one feels a special bond without exactly knowing why. Elena Margolina is such an artist. Her Schubert evokes empathy; the listener senses, as it were, her personal attitude towards this tormented composer, her understanding of Schubert’s multi-facetted feelings, allowing her to reflect this in her interpretations”. I have little to add other than that she shows even a more profound insight into what must have moved the composer when creating his sonatas.
In this new release, she addresses two sonatas Op. Posth. (Nos 13 and 15), coupled with the Grande Sonata No 16, Op. 42, all three covering three different periods in Schubert’s life, from youthful joy to depressed suffering, conveying the varied sentiments of Schubert’s short life. Elena demonstrates to perfection her knowledge and appreciation of the composer’s frame of mind, which she, with her interpretational skills, translates into jewels of romantic piano literature. Her Schubert is a meticulously elaborated tale of deeply moving responsiveness to the varying moods on display in each of the three sonatas. Joy is paired with leidenschaft; despair with resignation.
It may be recalled that Elena Margolina has also recorded on the same ARS label Schubert’s masterpiece sonata D959 but released on CD only. What a shame. Let us hope that when a full set were to be considered, this one would be recorded anew.
The piano sound (Bösendorfer), recorded in the Immanuel Kulturzentrum, is rich and roomy as usual with Manfred Schumacher. Taming the surround may be considered for those who appreciate sitting in front of, rather than surrounded by the grand. Claus-Dieter Hannauer is responsible for the informative liner notes.
Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France
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