Everybody knows and appreciates, for the most part, how Glenn Gould played fugues. Fast as it goes, exciting, dynamic. But of course there are other ways. Natalia Andreeva, the Russian pianist who gave us a beautiful volume of Ustvolskaya’s complete piano works (see index box above) comes through with an album of Preludes & Fugues(Divine Art 25139) where the emphasis is on a kind of meditative, poetic cast, grandly unfolding without hurry, studied but extraordinarily direct.
I’ve been listening closely to this album, and the more I hear it, the more I get inside of her way. Covered here are two preludes and fugues by Bach (one in C Sharp minor, BWV 849, and one in A minor, S. 462, originally for organ, transcribed for piano by Liszt), plus Franck’s “Prelude, choral et fugue,” Shostakovich’s “Prelude and Fugue in C minor, Op 87 No. 20” and finally, as a bonus, two “Etude-Tableau” by Rachmaninoff–one in G minor, Op. 33, No. 7, and one in C sharp minor, Op. 33 No. 8.
The minor key, as seen above, predominates, and Ms. Andreeva makes much of this with a mesmerizing clarity and spirit, very gravitas. She gives us every reason to appreciate her approach. She allows each segment much space to breathe, much to say by drawing out every passage with that Russian, singing quality we have in some of the best pianists from there.
It is an album to hear repeatedly, each time you uncover more detail and subtlety. It is a marvel of poetic interpretation. And a very coherent selection of gems as well.
Hurrah for Natalia Andreeva! Highly recommended.