BERG: Piano Sonata in b min.: I. Maβig bewegt. MEDTNER: Sonata Reminiscenza in a min.: Allegretto tranquillo. JANÁČEK: Sonata “I.X.1905 – From the Street.” SCHUBERT: Moments Musicaux, D. 780 / Christiane Karajeva, pno / Gramola 99227
This program is unusual not merely for the fact that three fairly modern 20th-century composers are then followed by the music of Franz Schubert, but also because only excerpts are played from the Berg and Medtner sonatas. Yet pianist Karajeva claims that this CD is the result of “about 55,000 hours in my life that I have spent at the instrument.” A friend of hers, listening to this CD, said to her, “This is you. It’s as if you were standing in front of me and telling me stories about your life.”
In addition to being a performer, Karajeva has also taught at the University of Vienna for the past 40 years, so she’s definitely been around a while. But that is neither here nor there; the important thing is how she plays, and she plays with tremendous physical power as well as a depth of feeling that is unusual, particularly in the very modern sonata movement of Alban Berg. Written in 1907-08 when he was still working his way through bitonality and had not yet discovered the 12-tone system, it is still thorny music not usually played with such unbridled passion, but that is exactly what Karajeva brings to the music here.
Indeed, her interpretation of the Medtner sonata movement makes me wish that she would record a complete set of his sonatas. Surely Medtner is in dire need of revival and re-appreciation, and I am convinced that Karajeva is exactly the right pianist to do this.
The Janáček Sonata is from his earlier period and not as harmonically modern as his works from the late 1910s through the late 1920s, yet again Karajeva plays it with great feeling. The same is true of the Schubert Impromptus, which she plays with phrasing and accents a little different from anyone else I’ve heard.
A very fine recital, then, well worth hearing.
—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley
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