Anna Fedorova’s Uneven “Storyteller”

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 10

Ukrainian pianist Anna Fedorova’s previous two solo CDs revealed her sensitivity and thoughtfulness, along with a tendency to fuss over details and lose sight of the proverbial big picture. The same holds true for this release. Her Chopin Ballades, to be sure, have wonderful moments, such as the textural clarity and dabs of color throughout No. 2’s gnarly agitated writing and the build-up before No. 3’s climactic final pages. But Fedorova’s rubatos in No. 1 often stop the music in its tracks, while the coda is note perfect yet insufficiently dramatic.

Fedorova’s languid shaping of Scriabin’s Op. 32 Poems pacifies the music’s harmonic tensions; here I miss the hint of diamond cutting through velvet, so to speak, that makes Horowitz’s first Poem so memorable. She creates an appropriately hazy atmosphere in the Scriabin Fourth sonata’s first movement, yet underplays the Prestissimo volando’s rhythmic edge and implicit nervous energy.

Somehow the looser-knit Liszt Petrarch Sonnets inspire Fedorova’s most engaging pianism and persuasive interpretations. Her dynamic range opens up, with inner voices that function as connective tissue rather than arcane filler. Some listeners may prefer Claudio Arrau’s poetic breadth and repose in Sonetto No. 123, yet I like how Fedorova slightly pushes ahead in the crescendos, which intensifies the impact of the rising chromatic lines, pointing up their kinship to those in the Act 1 Prelude to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. An uneven recital, all told, but I’ll certainly return to Fedorova’s Petrarch Sonnets, and bask in Channel Classics’ voluptuous sonics.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: Storyteller
Reference Recording: Chopin Ballades: Perahia (Sony), Scriabin Piano Sonata No. 4: Pletnev (Virgin Classics)

  • Anna Fedorova (piano)

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