Sofya Gulyak Recital
Sofya Gulyak, who has won first prizes in many competitions, including both the William Kapell in Maryland and the Leeds, is true to her nationality: her all-Russian programme is of music by Medtner, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev. She displayed a puzzling sobriety when I first heard her, but here all reservations are swept aside. How memorably she responds to Medtner, to an elusive fragrance and intricacy that can leave your imagination haunted by such a distinctive idiom. And whether you note her special lyrical warmth in the second subject of the Prokofiev or wonder at her unfaltering command in the final pages, you will be hard-pressed to find playing of greater authenticity.
Moiseiwitsch, Horowitz and Gilels gave us superb but few recordings, and I am grateful for Gulyak’s generosity. Her Rachmaninov, like her performance of the Third Concerto in the Kapell Competition, has a disarming reserve, but her musicianship is unfailing, concentrating on a delicate emotional fervour rather than more obvious display. In the Prokofiev she is fizzing in the opening declamatory Allegro moderato, keeps the following Allegretto smartly on the move and is truly lentissimo in the third movement’s beguiling waltz, before ending with what may well be the fastest yet faultlessly controlled finale on record. Champs Hill’s sound is excellent and so are Malcolm MacDonald’s notes. This is a stunning debut album.