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Anna Vinnitskaya plays Prokofiev & Ravel

Album Summary

>Prokofiev, Sergei : Concerto for Piano no 2 in G minor, Op. 16
>Ravel, Maurice : Concerto for Piano in G major
Performer Conductor Ensemble
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Notes & Reviews:

"I am not one to believe in definitive performances of anything. This rendition of the challenging Prokofiev Second almost caused me to abandon that stance. Anna Vinnitskaya, winner of the 2007 Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels, turns in one of the finest performances of this concerto I've ever encountered. I've heard tons of Prokofiev Seconds and possess a spate of recordings of it: Cherkassky, Henriot-Schweitzer, Frager (I no longer have), Bolet (two versions), Browning, Beroff, Ashkenazy (two versions), Tacchino, Bronfman, Gutierrez, Paik, Feltsman, Yundi Li and maybe a few others. And I've also heard several live performances, including two very fine efforts by Yuja Wang.

This one by Vinnitskaya contains a powerfully dark first movement, featuring a cadenza with all manner of subtleties, from the soloist's deft phrasing and dynamics to her all-encompassing technical skills. The second movement Scherzo crackles with energy, and the fourth movement contains a scorching mixture of agitation and regret, presented in the most virtuosic and poetic playing I've ever heard in this great finale. Only the third movement Intermezzo comes across less convincingly, mainly because Vinnitskaya's tempo is a tad on the slow side. She takes a more measured, darker approach than is usual, but it's hard to blame her: the work was written around the time of the suicide of Maximilian Schmidthof, a pianist friend of Prokofiev. Most musicologists believe the sense of tragedy in the concerto is related to that unsettling event in the young composer's life. Thus, Vinnitskaya's Intermezzo is more terrifying than sardonic, more crushing than muscular. The climax comes across with wanton power, with devastating finality, but what precedes, while well played and thoughtfully conceived, doesn't quite fit the spirit of the Allegro marking: for one thing, that cackling main theme should contain a good measure of humor. That said, I still have no problem considering this one of the finest, and perhaps THE finest Prokofiev Second ever recorded. Only Gutierrez on Chandos and Yundi Li on DG are serious competitors and I'm not sure I can say their virtues stack up to quite match Vinnitskaya's.

The Ravel G major? I've probably heard a good dozen or more performances of this work as well: Vlado Perlemuter, Henriot-Schweitzer, Leonard Bernstein (yes, he played it and played it well), Martha Argerich, Helene Grimaud, Francois-Joel Thiollier, Francesco Tristano Schlimé and others. This account by Vinnitskaya sparkles in the outer movements and her central Adagio is lovely in its bluesy wistfulness. What I like about Vinnitskaya is her steadiness, her good sense to eschew whimsical meanderings, quirky phrasing and extreme tempo choices, whether in Ravel or Prokofiev.

Argerich is tough to beat in the Ravel G major Concerto, but Vinnitskaya does, I believe. I recently reviewed Argerich's EuroArts DVD (2057898) of this concerto and found it quite convincing, though her 1998 go at it for DG, with Abbado conducting, was perhaps a bit less convincing. Vinnitskaya brings out more detail than Argerich in either of her recordings and is just as spirited. Gilbert Varga affords the listener a chance to hear Ravel's colorful orchestration in rich detail as he draws splendid playing from the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. Naïve provides excellent sound. Highly recommended. "-classical.net

"Anna Vinnitskaya has a dry, clear sound which I think [Prokofiev] would rather have admired...Gilbert Varga's direction is precise and detailed...I certainly want to hear more from this phenomenally equipped pianist."-BBC Music

“The opening whiplash of Ravel's "Piano Concerto in G major" portends the virtuosic fireworks to follow...But the concerto's real achievement lies in the final two movements, whose fantastical twists grow more unsettling by the minute.”- The Independent

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Groáer Sendesaal des Rundfunks Berlin-Brandenburg, Berl (04/2010).


Naive Prokofiev Ravel piano concertos Anna Vinnitskaya
This meaty CD is the second by the young Russian pianist Anna Vinnitskaya, winner of the 2007 Queen Elizabeth International Music Competition. Prokofiev's four-movement piano concerto in g minor opens quietly with a haunting melody developed with great force by piano and orchestra. The first movement, Andantino Allegretto, builds to a long and very demanding cadenza in which Vinnitskaya carries a full palette of shimmering color in her hands. A four-minute second movement, Scherzo Vivace, starts at a fast clip and continues its relentless path up a flight of sixteenth notes. The third movement, Intermezzo: Allegro, starts with heavy, sinister pounding from percussion and piano, which forecasts a parade of Soviet tanks for this listener. (The work was composed in 1913, just before the Russian revolution.) Another long cadenza tests the soloist's stamina. The fourth movement, Allegro tempestoso, ends in a blazing glissando at the keyboard. The work demands strong hands and nerves as well as bravery. (Vinnitskaya's impressive display of steely fingers and searching heart can be seen in her concert performance of the finale posted on YouTube on March 3, 2008.) Ravel's Piano Concerto in G major is a pretty thing that starts with a whiplash. A trumpet calls out to the audience and a jazzy theme reminiscent of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue enters and then leaves. A harp twinkles brightly. The second movement, Adagio Assai, introduces a lovely, dreamy melody the composer himself attributed to Mozart (in the Larghetto of the Clarinet Quintet.) This unwinds slowly by the pianist over many measures. The orchestra wraps around this theme until finally everyone is wandering around in the same Ravelian dream state. The third movement, Presto, opens with a whip crack and ends in a scampering chase up the keyboard with a boom from timpani. In this recording, Vinnitskaya shows us why she is not only a star, but a serious musical collaborator. Ted Wilks
Submitted on 11/20/10 by Ted Wilks 
Outstanding new disc of 20th Century piano concertos
Following a well-reviewed debut CD of meaty Russian music for solo piano, Anna Vinnitskaya returns with a very strong concerto disc on the Naive label. The Prokofiev 2nd Piano Concerto has had its share of fine versions on disc; Martha Argerich, and Horacio Gutierrez stand out for me. The new performance of this concerto master-work is not at all out of place in that company. And in the Ravel, a special favourite of mine, Vinnitskaya is right up there with Argerich, and even Michelangeli. Reading Vinnitskaya's reviews from her major competition triumphs beginning in 2007 to her recent concerts and recordings, it wasn't surprising to hear such accomplished playing, with the widest range of power and delicacy. I was also impressed, though, with the orchestral accompaniment of Gilbert Varga and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchestrer Berlin, especially in the Prokofiev; and with the sound provided by the Naive producers and engineers. While the real focus of the Prokofiev work is in the piano part, the Ravel Concerto is as much about the virtuosity of the orchestra as that of the pianist. Though Varga lets the energy falter just a bit in the middle of Ravel's brilliant first movement, this is a fine performance overall, with excellent playing from both individual instruments and the whole orchestra.
Submitted on 01/28/11 by Dean Frey 
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Works Details

>Prokofiev, Sergei : Concerto for Piano no 2 in G minor, Op. 16
  • Performer: Anna Vinnitskaya (Piano)
  • Conductor: Gilbert Varga
  • Notes: Composition written: 1912-13.
  • Running Time: 33 min. 26 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Form: Concerto
  • Written: 1912-1913

>Ravel, Maurice : Concerto for Piano in G major
  • Performer: Anna Vinnitskaya (Piano)
  • Conductor: Gilbert Varga
  • Running Time: 20 min. 32 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Concerto
  • Written: 1929-1931