DREAM IMAGES / CRUMB: Rain-Death Variations; Dream Images. SCRIABIN: Piano Sonata No. 2 (Sonata-Fantasy); 24 Preludes, Op. 11 (6). BERIO: Wasserklavier; Erdenklavier; Brin; Luftklavier. USTVOLSKAYA: 12 Preludes for Piano (3); Piano Sonata No. 6 / Svetozar Ivanov, pianist / Gega New GD393
Pianist Svetozar Ivanov is a man with a program here, and that program is simulating a “dream images” in music. To that end he has included a great deal of impressionistic, floating music from such composers as Alexander Scriabin, George Crumb and Luciano Berio, and some wildly nightmarish music from one Galina Ustvolskaya. The program is not quite as straightforward as it appears in the above header: Ivanov alternates the various composers and pieces, starting with Crumb’s Rain-Death Variations and ending with his Dream Images (Love-Death Music), which contains a snippet of Chopin’s Fantasy-Impromptu theme that was later converted into the pop song I’m Always Chasing Rainbows.
As the notes indicate, “This release take the listener on a journey through the fantasy world of Scriabin, the enigmatic quiet of Berio, the hyper-expressiveness of Ustvolskaya, and of course the minimalistic wonder of Crumb. A quote by Borges serves as a program note and suggests that, ‘we are wakened not out of sleep, but into a prior dream, and that dream lies within another, and so on, to infinity….’” What makes the program work, however, is the pianist’s unshakable commitment to his theme and his remarkable sense of style and proportion, perhaps even more so than the actual selection of pieces. Ivanov, for instance, takes Scriabin’s second sonata at a slower pace than I’m used to hearing it, though he does not ignore the many dynamics shadings and pedal effects, and by placing it between the opening Rain-Death Variations of Crumb and Berio’s strange, quiet Wasserklavier and Erdenklavier he makes connections to music one would not immediately think of in conjunction with it.
As the recital went on, in fact, I: became less focused on his playing per se and more focused on the music and what it was saying, and that is always a good thing. Too often when listening to classical recordings, I, like many listeners, are listening to the keyboardist’s technique and style rather than what he is saying. It’s a trap that many professional listeners fall into when hearing a recording for the first time, even when they’re not actively reviewing it…you might call it a reflex reaction. In Ivanov’s case, I’m happy to say that the music is as much if not a greater star of this recording than the performer.
Between you and me and the lamppost, I still wonder about the placement of Ustvolskaya’s machine-shop sonata near the end of the program…or, for that matter, in this program at all. Having fallen into the spell of Ivanov’s exceptionally sensitive playing of all this music, it had the effect on me of suddenly being tossed, off a cliff into a rock quarry.Just what part of the dream experience this was supposed to be, I don’t know. Perhaps a terrorist attack in slumberland?
Nonetheless, this is most definitely a recording worth hearing. It may give you a whole new perspective on the familiar music while gaining your respect for the unfamiliar.
— © 2016 Lynn René Bayley