At the time of writing, Anna Vinnitskaya at the young age of just 34, has now achieved an increasingly secure position as one of the outstanding pianists of her generation. This has been established with concert bookings as a solo and concerto pianist supported with a selection of CD recordings including this one recorded in 2011. She has also become represented on U-Tube which is where the decision to invest in this disc originated.
That on-line performance, although impressive, left doubts as to whether it would be a long-term survivor amongst a library collection of many previous fine recordings of the same material. Those doubts have since been dispelled as small but crucial differences are apparent when comparing the ‘live’ performance and this studio recording to the advantage of the compact disc.
Not surprisingly the ‘live’ performance lays greater stress upon Vinnitskaya’s obvious virtuosity which is particularly apparent in Scarbo for example. One suspects that rarely has the piece been performed at such speed and with such precision within a ‘live’ context. The studio recording here is not so driven by virtuosity but, while still being a notably nimble performance, the slight but important lesser tempo chosen allows the pianist greater room for subtle nuances of touch, phrasing and elements of expression which are all to the advantage of Ravel’s creation. This is also very apparent in the preceding ‘Le Gibet’ where the repeated note signifying the movement of the hanging body in the gentle wind is made totally and hypnotically effective. The climax of the first movement also develops to a natural un-driven climax.
The opening Pavane shares the subtle nuances of Le Gibet and is a performance of considerable sensitivity achieved without departing from Ravel’s expressed desire for the music to be a ‘Pavane for a dead Princess’ and not a ‘dead Pavane for a Princess!’ This is a case of art concealing art and presumably very much what the composer had in mind.
Miroirs shares all the same benchmarks of subtle sensitivity and, as in Scarbo, Vinnitskaya manages to convey more than just virtuosity in Alborada. The remaining four pieces in the set all convey the same unstated but sophisticated pianism apparent in Pavane and Le Gibet.
The recording delivers good piano sound within a natural acoustic and the sleeve notes provide interesting and informative background to the music and the pianist. The playing time is short at only 57 minutes but the musical rewards offer ample compensation.
This is an outstanding collection and deserves to be included in the collections of keen ‘Ravelians’ regardless of likely duplication.
It is, one finds, impossible to avoid comparisons between newly-acquired interpretations and those which have, for years, been known, and loved (or loathed, as the case may be).
Therefore, for the sake of thoroughness, and especially to avoid unfairness, Vinnitskaya's interpretations of these Ravel perennials were auditioned "alongside" recordings already in the possession of this reviewer.
The news is all good. "Sensitive" and "measured" are just two of the adjectives which spring to mind readily with respect to Vinnitskaya's reading/playing of these works.
Her "Pavane" is at least as good as that of Cécile Ousset, which is to be found on here: