Aleksandra Mikulska: Souvenirs
The young Polish pianist Aleksandra Mikulska has studied in Karlsruhe, at the International Piano Academy of Imola and with Arie Vardi in Hanover. Her new release assembles an attractive programme of Liszt pieces under the title ‘Souvenirs’.
It is a pleasure to hear the seldom-encountered Gleanings of Woronince, Liszt’s memento of the weeks he spent with Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein at her eponymous estate in the Ukraine, given so sympathetic a reading. The song transcriptions, Schumann’s ‘Du meine Seele, du mein Herz’ and ‘Überm Garten durch die Lüfte’ and Liszt’s own ‘O Lieb!’, are persuasive in their understated earnestness, with melodies effortlessly articulated amid the elaborated accompaniment figuration. Mikulska’s imaginative realisation of the ubiquitous sixth Soirée de Vienne sparkles with a charming Viennese Schwung.
Mikulska’s fundamentally serious and idiomatic approach to the Hungarian Rhapsodies precludes any hint of vulgarity, yet allows for stretches of light-hearted frolic, even coquetry, when called for. These are original readings, devoid of hysteria, that will likely satisfy even the most discriminating Hungarian listeners. Something of the rhythmic acuity and hauteur that inform her evocations of the Roma of the Carpathian basin enliven her realisation of Liszt’s flamenco-inflected Iberian fantasy, the Rhapsodie espagnole. Taken as a whole, these four rhapsodies combine idiomatic piquancy, rhythmic aplomb and precisely gauged colour with a dignity of presentation that is irresistible.
Technically speaking, microphone placement for the recording sessions last year in the Leipzig Gewandhaus may have been a trifle close. But this is a minor consideration compared to the vivid character and charm of Mikulska’s piano-playing. I look forward to hearing more of her.