Anna Tsybuleva: Fantasien
Piano fantasias may have started off as essentially improvisational in nature, yet the genre evolved into something less clearly defined, more all-embracing. Consider the four large-scale opuses put together for this ‘all fantasies’ programme. Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy, for example, provided the template for continuous single-movement sonatas such as the Liszt B minor, the later Scriabin sonatas and so on. The seven short pieces encompassing Brahms’s Op 116 are short and concisely structured. Only the opening CPE Bach and Beethoven compositions are fantasies in the word’s purest sense.
More importantly, however, these compositions add up to a well-contrasted and stimulating totality, abetted by Anna Tsybuleva’s superb pianism and intelligent musicianship. Her sense of timing and innate feeling for shaping grand, impulsive gestures effectively accentuate Bach’s volatile creativity and unpredictable harmonic detours. Rather than pounce upon the Beethoven’s opening downward declamatory scales, Tsybuleva delineates them with care. In due course her playing becomes looser and less fettered, yet a thoughtful presence is always felt.
Tsybuleva forcefully launches into the Schubert, keeping the composer’s con fuoco directive in mind. She relaxes just a smidgen for the lyrical E major theme, yet keeps the textures crisp through her spare pedalling, while taking the climactic octaves in effortless stride. The Adagio variations benefit from a strong left-hand presence and as little expressive lily-gilding as possible. The fugal finale is consistently clear and avoids building too much too soon, although a little more drive and ferocity à la Richter, Fleisher or (more recently) Primakov wouldn’t have hurt.
In the Brahms group, Tsybuleva brings shapeful specificity to the long lines as they cross from one register to the next, justifying her terse pacing for the E major Intermezzo and an A minor Intermezzo that might sound too deliberate in less knowing hands. The sound may be a tad diffuse but it conveys palpable concert-hall realism.