PROKOFIEV Visions Fugitives CHOPIN Piano Sonata No 3
In Anna Gourari’s hands, the quirky, caustic, cameo-like and seemingly spontaneous qualities of Prokofiev’s Visions fugitives become monumental, aloof and calculated. She slows down No 1’s Lentamente, magnifying its melody beyond Prokofiev’s pianissimo specification, flattens out No 2’s marked changes of character that Steven Osborne vividly and faithfully conveys, and slightly overpedals No 3’s opening section. Her heavy-gaited articulation of No 4 doesn’t quite mirror Prokofiev’s Animato directive. In No 5, Osborne consistently differentiates the right-hand staccatos and left-hand accented notes over the long pedal, but not Gourari, although she perfectly nails the animated elegance of No 6. Her slapdash rushing through No 9’s repeated notes and cavalier dynamics totally miss the music’s tranquil point, yet she contrasts No 15’s motoric rhythms well. If Osborne makes more of No 17’s legatissimo and espressivo distinctions, Gourari’s relatively deadpan conception convinces on its own terms.
Observing the long exposition repeat, Gourari revels in the maestoso mood and grand transitional gestures in the first movement of Chopin’s Third Sonata, yet she also knows when to move things along, such as in the development section’s knotty contrapuntal sequences. Taken at less than a true Molto vivace, the Scherzo’s outer sections don’t scintillate, while Gourari heaves and sighs over the Trio for no reason other than that she can. Her Largo features outsize dynamics and firmly anchored left-hand rhythms that prevent her slow tempo from falling apart, although she pushes ahead in the the central major-key triplet episode. The pianist’s fussy overphrasings and false accents poke and jab at the Presto non tanto finale without really getting it to move.
Lastly, Gourari’s ruminative and fastidiously voiced Medtner F minor Fairy Tale falls short of Hamish Milne’s floating cantabile and sense of narrative. ECM’s production values uphold the label’s storied reputation, if not necessarily this pianist’s overall artistry.