This collection of fugues begins, completely appropriately, with the music of J. S. Bach. The conceit of the program is to present a three-century overview of the fugue in the solo piano repertoire, as it progresses from the Baroque, through the early Romantic era, deep into the 19th century, and finally, landing in the modern age. This is, for once, a concept album that really works. It is fascinating to listen to a durable and rather stodgy format quite effortlessly withstanding the ravages of time. The composer who seems to draw from all directions is Liszt, whose powerhouse work is a fireworks display of virtuoso-writing. It is odd that this highly entertaining masterpiece is not played more often. If Shostakovich represents a smart, reverent homage to the music of Bach, Shchedrin is rather rude, evincing the ability to make something supremely elegant into something ugly. The young Chinese composer Cynthia Lee Wong rounds out the collection with a brash and raucous work that still rings with distinct echoes of the great Bach.
Bulgarian-born, Moscow Conservatory-trained pianist Lila Boyadjieva sounds alert and intelligent, and more to the point of this CD, she has assembled a fascinating and instructive collection of music, which proceeds with a natural flow. Of the fugues that I am most familiar with, there are none for which Boyadjieva runs to the front of the pack. She skirts the smoldering sensuality of Rubinstein in the Franck and the elegance of Ashkenazy in the Shostakovich. Her Liszt is impressive, very self-assured and bursting with color. In all of her playing, there is an intensity of purpose and bold dynamic control that mark her as a Russian school pianist. This is not her first CD (she debuted with the complete solo piano music of Barber), but will probably be an introduction for most to an unusually probing and well-rounded artist.- Peter Burwasser
The title of this CD is 'Around the Fugue' because pianist Lilia Boyadjieva's program consists mostly of preludes and fugues modeled on the idea so brilliantly put forth by J.S. Bach in his Well Tempered Clavier sets. The program, not yet listed here at Amazon, is as follows:
J.S. Bach: Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV903
Mendelssohn: Prelude and Fugue in B Minor, Op. 35
Liszt: Fantasy and Fugue on B.A.C.H.
Franck: Prelude, Choral and Fugue
Shostakovich: Prelude and Fugue in D Flat Major, Op. 81
Rodion Shchedrin: Prelude and Fugue in G Minor (Left Hand)
Cynthia Lee Wong: Fugato
The Bach Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue is well-known. Less known (at least to me) is the Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue in B Minor, one of a group of six such works, which begins with a brilliant prelude marked by detaché chords in Mendelssohn's typical leggiero style, followed by an energetic fugue with a running theme subjected to a tight contrapuntal working-out. Liszt's Prelude and Fugue on B.A.C.H. (in English terminology: B-flat A C B-natural) is his well-known tribute to his illustrious predecessor. Franck's Prelude, Choral and Fugue is one of his best-known piano works. Its first theme quotes the same notes as the Liszt piece. It is written in rich romantic harmonies more reminiscent of Wagner than of Bach. Shostakovich and Shchedrin each wrote a set of 24 preludes and fugues as Bach had done. The Shostakovich selection here is intentionally childlike in its sweet simplicity. Its fugue is particularly satisfying. Shchedrin's Prelude and Fugue, written for left hand alone, is marked by its spare texture and knotty harmonic language. Finally, contemporary American composer Cynthia Lee Wong (b.1982) is represented by Fugato that, in its two-minute duration, takes us through some pretty gnarly harmonies by way of Bartók and jazz.
Lilia Boyadjieva is a Bulgarian pianist long resident in Paris. Her earlier recording of the complete piano music of Samuel Barber was lauded on its release. Her playing here is masterful and idiomatic. She is given lifelike sound.
- Scott Morrison