Reviewing the Odessa-born pianist Elena Rozanova’s 2001 debut release in Harmonia Mundi’s “Les Nouveaux Musiciens”, I cited her hard, aggressive touch and her lack of color and sensitivity. Judging from this program of Liszt song transcriptions, her sonority has gained considerable warmth and depth over the past decades. The resplendence of both her instrument, a unique 102-key piano built by Stephen Paulello, and the piano builder’s studio enhances this impression.
Rozanova patiently coaxes long singing lines and mellifluous inner voices from Schumann’s Widmung, Schubert’s Gretchen am Spinnrade, and Chopin’s Spring. At the same time, the booming chords and impetuous treble runs in the Mazurka-like Bacchanal engulf the room without a trace of banging. The instrument’s timbral distinctions particularly tell in Rozanova’s spaciously sculpted Liszt Sonetti, even if I miss the urgency that Claudio Arrau brings to the climaxes of Nos. 104 and 123. Only in the Schubert Erlkönig’s relentlessly pounded-out repeated notes does Rozanova revert to her tense, monochrome 2001 standard. The booklet includes the pianist’s own fine annotations, plus the original Schubert, Schumann, and Chopin song texts printed in German only.