A German pianist with Iranian roots, Schaghajegh Nosrati first came to my attention through her 2015 recording of Bach’s The Art of Fugue, a rather audacious project for a solo CD debut. Apparently not one to do things halfway, Nosrati focuses her second solo release around a different kind of pianistic Mount Everest, Alkan’s Concerto for Solo Piano ( the eighth through tenth pieces of the composer’s Twelve Etudes in the Minor Keys Op. 39).
Nosrati’s considerable resources as a colorist and strong polyphonic acumen help her bind and sustain Alkan’s often loose-limbed writing. As an Alkan stylist, she veers closer to Ronald Smith’s patient detailing and inherent classicism than to the volcanic sweep of Marc-André Hamelin, Jack Gibbons, and, more recently, Paul Wee. She articulates the bolero/polonaise-like finale’s decorative melodic twists and turns with impressive point and specificity, while the conversational relationship between the central movement’s lyrical right-hand lines and left-hand accompaniment allows the music to float over the bar lines.
Her selections from the Esquisses Op. 63 may not match Steven Osborne’s astonishing levels of sheen, but don’t underestimate her mindful virtuosity. For example, in Le Staccatissimo, most pianists understandably focus attention on the right-hand repeated notes, while Nosrati gives equal time to the left-hand scales. Her very capable Toccatina, however, yields to faster and nimbler versions from Husseyin Sermet and Raymond Lewenthal. On the whole, Nosrati’s solid pianism and musicianship shed valuable light on Alkan’s phantasmagorical and quirky aesthetic, without quite cracking Hamelin or Wee’s transcendental ceiling.