Andrea Vivanet’s Russian Recital

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TANEYEV: Prelude & Fugue in G# min. TCHEREPNIN: 6 Préludes, Op. 17. 5 Morceaux, Op. 18. Primitifs – 12 Adaptations of Russian Melodies. SHOSTAKOVICH: 24 Preludes / Andrea Vivanet, pno / Gramola 98022/ARCD 022

This is another one of those odd Gramola releases that don’t look like a Gramola CD. Sardinian pianist Andrea Vivanet presents a recital of Russian music, but one that clearly circumvents the “big three who everyone knows about, namely Tchaikovsky, Scriabin and Rachmaninov. Instead, he gives us a little-known Prelude and Fugue by Sergey Taneyev (1856-1915), a younger contemporary of Scriabin’s, Nikolai Tcherepnin (1873-1945), a contemporary of Rachmaninov, and Shostakovich who needs no introduction. The first two pieces, needless to day, are rarely performed and even more rarely recorded.

Since I didn’t get a booklet with this download to review, I don’t know what kind of instrument Vivanet is playing, but it has an exceptionally bright sound and she uses little or no pedal. This gives the Taneyev piece a fairly brittle sound with next to no legato in her phrasing, but the music itself is interesting, tonal but quite complex as it develops. There is clearly a relationship between his music and the early works of Scriabin, mixed with Brahms and filtered through a Russian perspective.

The Techerepnin pieces are late Romantic, like Rachmaninov, and again Vivanet plays with almost no pedal and a fairly brittle sound, but the music is shaped well. It’s just very odd to hear this sort of playing; it’s outside of my frame of reference for pianists. The best way I can describe it is that Vivanet sounds as if he’s playing this late Romantic music on an early 19th-century fortepiano, except that the resonance of the instrument clearly indicates a larger, more modern frame.

His performances of the Shostakovich Préludes are equally odd-sounding; although this more modern music can bear this sort of interpretation a little better than the Romantic pieces, I still prefer Craig Sheppard’s recording on Roméo Records.

I’m rather ambivalent about Vivanet’s playing due to the brittle sound and lack of legato, though he is clearly a virtuoso and plays with commitment and feeling. He also has a fine control of dynamics, which gives his playing some color. Perhaps you should sample some of his playing on YouTube and decide for yourself whether or not you’d like this album.

—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley

Follow me on Twitter (@Artmusiclounge) or Facebook (as Monique Musique)

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