Liszt: Sonata etc - Polina Leschenko

Liszt: Sonata etc - Polina Leschenko

Avanti  1027-2

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental

Liszt: Sonata in B minor, Bach: Chaconne (trans. Busoni), Gounod/Liszt: Waltz from "Faust", Bach/Liszt: Prelude and fugue in A minor

Polina Leschenko (piano)

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DSD recording
Reviews (1)

Review by John Broggio - July 31, 2007

An excellent disc!

This is not one for the purists though, for Polina Leschenko doesn't always follow the letter of the score; if you allow her the freedom of her thoughts, then this recital disc is a most marvellous journey of musical fantasy combined with a technique that any pianist would willingly possess.

Opening with Liszt's faithful transcription of Bach's Prelude and Fugue in A minor, this is given a reading that would make many of both composers followers stop what they were doing in wonderment - not always positively though I suspect. There are moments of "hesitation" that, if one doesn't let the mood wash over them, break the chains of argument and musical momentum that not everyone will enjoy. Other instances of embellishments, are the addition of some ornamentation (which is surprisingly in keeping with Bach's style) and some pedal notes not used either in the original or the transcription are added; at other points some pedal notes are cut short - I am not convinced that all these decisions helped the overall interpretation but taking my straight-laced reviewer hat off for another listen and I cannot but smile with pleasure. The opening of the fugue is wonderfully dreamlike in its fluidity...

In between the two Liszt transcriptions comes Busoni's very liberal re-working of Bach's great Chaconne for solo violin. This is a barnstorming reading but without the heavy-handed piano-busting approach that some pianists favour. Completely convincing throughout on all levels, this is a compelling musical performance of a great transcription and one dearly wishes to hear more Busoni from Leschenko in the future. The technical perfection is outstanding - so many famous names choose to cloud detail with the sostenuto pedal but not here and because of this, the notes fall into (musical) place in a way that few can match.

Before the great sonata comes Liszt's concert paraphrase entitled "Waltz from [Gounod's] Faust". Here, the only discrepancy between the score and Leschenko's rendition is the odd departure from the dynamic indications and a thrilling glissando just before the end. No matter though, for this is the type of performance of which dreams are made from - if Leschenko performed this in any concert hall, she would get a (deserved) standing ovation. The quality of pianism on display is one of the greatest to be put down on any recorded medium and her musicianship fully matches her prowess on the keyboard. At no time does one miss the orchestra (or indeed Faust or Marguerite) due to the phenomenal display of virtuosity and tonal colouring.

Lastly, Leschenko tackles one of the great touchstones of the piano repertoire. This sonata, like the opening transcription, is interpreted in a way that will make Leschenko adored and abhorred in equal measure. The technique, as in the remainder of the recital, is unparalleled although perhaps the musical approach that Leschenko adopts is not; one can clearly imagine her mentor Martha Argerich nodding with approval as Leschenko tears through the notes with an abandon that few could attempt and fewer pull off so triumphantly as she manages here. As in the other Liszt works, some markings are wilfully ignored (not always consistently) yet a compelling performance is built without appearing episodic in the least. Tempi are quick but never breathless - those wanting a meditative and deeply profound approach will need to look elsewhere (not that there is anything remotely superficial). Some of the playing just defies belief with the speed and precision of attack - if it were not for the consistency of the style I'd be tempted to say that there was something artificial about the playing but this is the real thing - just not closeted in the performing straight-jacket that so many have tried on. In the hands of a lesser artist, the "quirks" of Leschenko's interpretation would jar but so compelling is the playing that one is drawn entirely into her world. Is this the last word in Liszt playing? Probably not for most but it is one of the most stimulating accounts that I have heard since Horowitz. Is it the last word in piano playing? Quite possibly!

The recording is fully in keeping with the house standard - no hardness nor fuzzy middle distance to be found. Indeed this is one of the most revealing recordings I have heard of a piano (the use of the "other" pedal is marvellously captured); indeed this is a demonstration disc for the sound of the instrument. There are brief notes but they could have supplied a blank piece of paper so powerful is the communication on this disc.

All in all the playing is quite simply electrifying and dazzling beyond belief. Fortunately, this is allied with a dramatic, if not uncontroversial, musicality which I fully recognise will not be to everyone's tastes. As I mentioned earlier - purists beware! For those with a taste for something different and exciting I cannot recommend this strongly enough - it has me catching my breath every time I listen and grinning with pure pleasure. I really hope more from Polina Leschenko is planned as she is at least as exciting an artist as Julia Fischer is for the violin.


Copyright © 2007 John Broggio and


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