Review: Gleb Ivanov – piano

The Russian pianist Gleb Ivanov opens his programme with a tremendous swagger in Soirée de Vienne, the intoxicating paraphrase on Strauss waltzes by Adolf Grünfeld. It’s one of many glittering and virtuosic arrangements made of his waltzes (others include  those by Dohnányi, Schulhof, Schulz-Evler and Tausig) and it blazes with exuberance and joie de vivre in Ivanov’s magisterial hands. It’s made all the more exhilarating by his own interpolations in the score which sound entirely natural and it’s dispatched with a breezy confidence and a seemingly effortless virtuosity.

Listening to Ivanov’s thoughtful playing of the Liszt transcriptions of Schubert songs, one is reminded just how exquisitely crafted these arrangements are. Liebsbotschaft is a lovely piece in which Ivanov imparts a warm, sonorous sound and a finely articulated melody and harmonious inner voices; Aufenthalt has a fine sense of drama, Im Meer a brooding sense of foreboding. I was less won over by his muscular account of Erlkönig. The pianist Charles Rosen described Schubert’s original piano part as one of the most difficult in the repertoire (in part, no doubt, for the feeling that one’s right arm is about to fall off) but here the left hand rising octaves (played fortissimo by Ivanov) simply sound noisy rather than menacing, and the mounting dread is somewhat lost.

Schubert’s A major sonata, D 664 is one of his most amiable and lyrical sonatas which Ivanov plays with tenderness and an unfussy, easy going charm. He pitches the silken final movement just right, somewhere between Brendel’s wandering introspection and Richter’s nimble finger work, and it has a finely crafted development section. Ivanov’s account of the Mazurkas by Chopin is similarly straightforward but robust; while one might miss the languors (say, in the reflective E minor mazurka), he brings out the dance qualities in these delightful pieces. And for Respighi’s haunting Notturno he plays with a calm introspection, building to a richly expansive and satisfying climax.

In the Rachmaninov pieces we find Ivanov on home territory with a spacious reading of the Mélodie and an edgy, big-boned account of the Humoresque. But he saves the real fireworks for the final piece, Grigory Ginzburg’s arrangement of Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King which he plays with a manic zeal. It’s completely over the top (which of course is the whole point) and quite breathtaking.

The sound recording is excellent: well-balanced, with a rich piano sound. The album contains biographical notes as well as notes on the music.

Kevin Painting

Performance: 4
Recording: 4

Published 3 July 2016 on primephonic



DEODE3520_coverStrauss-Grünfeld: Soirée de Vienne, Op. 56
Respighi: Notturno, P 011
Schubert-Liszt: Liebesbotschaft; Aufenthalt; Am Meer; Erlkönig
Schubert: Sonata in A Major, D. 664, Op. 120
Chopin: 4 Mazurkas, Op. 41
Liszt: Die Lorelei, S. 532
Rachmaninoff: Mélodie, Op. 3; Humoresque, Op. 10
Grieg-Ginzburg: In the Hall of the Mountain King

Gleb Ivanov (piano)
Delos DE 3520