Blumina Brings Us Memories From Home


MEMORIES FROM HOME / SCRIABIN: 5 Preludes, Op. 16. PROKOFIEV: Visions Fugitives: Nos. 1, 4, 10, 11, 16, 17. WEINBERG: 2Fugues. FRID: Hungarian Album. KANCHELI: Miniatures for Piano (Selections) / Elisaveta Blumina, pno / Dreyer Gaido 11796

The very talented Russian-born pianist Elisaveta Blumina, now a German citizen, tells us in the liner notes that she has always been attracted to “character pieces,” in part because of her childhood desire to become a ballerina (alas, she was too tall). She is also a synesthetic who “sees” music in colors, as was Scriabin who was the first composer to introduce a “color keyboard” to music (see image below), and she sees colors in the other music presented here as well. These are also composers of her home country.

Scriabin color keyboard

Scriabin’s color keyboard

Although I myself am not a synesthete—I can feel a coloristic quality in music without actually visualizing real colors—I do tend to appreciate the singing and playing of those who are a little more than others because they are tuned into a facet of the music that I cannot see but only feel. Thus I found her playing of the five Op. 16 Preludes of Scriabin very haunting in a way that I could not really put into words; indeed, I wish she would someday give us the whole of this composer’s Preludes, and possibly even the Piano Sonatas if she can inject passionate fire into them as well as color. I’d be very curious to hear her take on the ten sonatas. Blumina brings something out in some of these Preludes that other pianists do not: a certain wistful, bittersweet sadness.

By track six she has switched to the Visions Fugitives of Prokofiev, pieces with which I was not previously familiar.  The “falling” scales of the first of these also create a wistful feeling without resorting to sentimentality, whereas the fourth exhibits the composer’s weird energy in uptempo music and the tenth and eleventh his dry wit. Surprisingly, she also injects a bit of wit into Weinberg’s 2 Fugues for Ludmila Berlinskaya, a quality I’ve seldom heard in performances of his music—yet it fits.

The majority of the album, however, is comprised of Grigory Frid’s Hungarian Album, comprising of 14 pieces, and 22 of Giya Kancheli’s Miniatures for Piano, of which this is the first recording. The former were written after the composer’s trip to Hungary in 1966, and although he was a modern composer by bias, these pieces are quite cheerful and mostly tonal. Only in some of them, such as Nos. 4 and 6, is the music bitonal in nature with the characteristic sound one heard in the Hungarian folk songs collected by Bartók and Kodály.

As for the Miniatures of Kancheli, I can hear from their delicate structure why Blumina is drawn to them, but I personally do not enjoy Romantic music of a sentimental sort, thus I will refrain from much comment on it. Kancheli, a composer who Blumina knew personally, wrote a lot of film music, and it shows. If you respond to simple tunes with resolutely tonal harmonies, you’ll love them. I did not, although I admit that they are well played.

And there you have her messages from home, ranging from the common to the sublime.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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