S022577 Reviews

S022577 Schumann Fantasie & Kreisleriana

190 Fanfare January/February 1998 by Charles Timbrell

SCHUMANN Kreisleriana, op. 16. Fantasy, op. 17 Irina Edelstein (pn) SONORA S022577CD (71:00)

Irina Edelstein, a pianist new to me, demonstrates complete technical assurance and all the imagination, poetry, and color that these two wonderful scores require. Still in her forties (to judge from a photo), Edelstein received her training in Moscow with Milstein before moving to Israel in 1975. She has performed widely in Europe and taught in Frankfurt, where this recording was made.

From the opening bars of the Fantasy it is clear that we are in for something special. The sound is big, the lines are long, and the contrasts of tempo and mood are great. Her powerful musical rhetoric often reminds me of Cortot's or Richter's - a welcome circumstance, since Cortot never recorded the Fantasy and Richter never recorded Kreisleriana. A marvelous feeling of utter stillness is often achieved at the ends of slow sections, just before sudden outbursts of passion. The technical and musical details are obviously worked out with care, but they never call attention to themselves, even in the difficult coda of the second movement of the Fantasy or the most introspective pieces in Kreisleriana. Edelstein is able to stretch Schumann's ritards until they virtually stop, because at every moment she is attuned to the harmonic tension and melodic direction; yet the slow movement of the Fantasy, so full of color and dreaminess, is never too slow or too free.

The multisectional aspects of Schumann's writing are less apparent in these performances than in most, partly because of Edelstein's flexible beats and phrases. Nothing, in fact, sounds square -- even the long sections in dotted rhythms. Repeated material In Kreisleriana is subtly varied in tempo and color without ever violating the text, and this is particularly welcome in the second piece. Her overall pacing of this work is exemplary, with minimal breaks between pieces and sections of pieces--and maximal contrasts of tempo, touch, and dynamics. In short, Edelstein's performances of both works rank with the finest I know, and I eagerly await hearing more from her. This is a major artist.

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