GRIEG Holberg Suite
Let me put my cards on the table and say that Katya Apekisheva is a young pianist who has already achieved artistic greatness. Not even Gilels, in his legendary DG Grieg recital, played more magically or, astonishingly, with greater finesse. How thrilled Irina Zaritskaya, Apekisheva’s teacher and my much-missed jury colleague, would have been if she had lived to hear the fruit of her work with this profoundly gifted artist. A sonority of beguiling warmth and refinement and a rare poetic empathy quickly make you abandon paper and pencil and listen mesmerised as Apekisheva captures the very essence of Grieg’s genius. Here, in her mixed programme, she tells you with an often painfully beautiful and unforced eloquence of how Grieg’s romantic temperament was easily clouded by depression and unease, of the way, for example in “Homesickness” and “Vanished Days”, a heartbreaking state of mind is only temporarily modified by memories of happier times. In the Aria from the Holberg Suite she is deeply sensitive to the way Grieg’s love and respect for the 18th century is coloured by a near-Franckian chromaticism and dark introspection. These works and everything else on this beautifully recorded album suggest an artistic fervour and commitment given to very few in any generation.
The sense of the Lyric Pieces as Grieg’s confessional diary is everywhere in Apekisheva’s recital, an inwardness and vision less evident in Daniel Propper’s bracing recording of four books of the Lyric Pieces. Nimble-fingered and musicianly, this Swedish-Viennese pianist, who now makes his home in Paris, shows Grieg’s art evolving from simple beginnings into a world of increasing complexity and harmonic richness. His “Little Bird” (from Op 43) blithely chirrups in a manner far removed from Messiaen’s more spiritual feathered friends, and his way with “Erotic” from the same book achieves a fine sense of how outward contentment abruptly changes to emotional instability. In “Butterfly” he hardly matches Eileen Joyce’s incomparable nuance and vivacity (Testament), yet these finely recorded performances are an admirable antidote to all possible sentimentality.