A plentiful audience at Zankel Hall last week enjoyed Nadejda Vlaeva’s program of attractive salon pieces by two forgotten Russian éxiles, Vladimir Drozdoff (Saratov 1882 -New York 1960) and Sergei Bortkiewicz (Kharkiv 1877-Vienna 1952), and a colorful Hungarian Rhapsody by Franz Liszt (a rarely played one)—all introduced by one of Schubert's most profound sonatas, the G Major, D. 894, sometimes known as the "Fantasie," a name given it by its first publisher because of its meditative first movement. There could be no doubt that the curtain-raiser was the most significant work on the program, but the centerpiece was nonetheless the selection of shortish rarities by the two Russians. Their music has much in common. Both are rooted in the nineteenth century, with little or nothing traceable to the musical trends that emerged after 1910, or later. Although they were younger than Rachmaninoff, who was plagued by his own conservatism, their music is even more retardataire. This is not in itself a fault, although one can understand why their music failed to reach a wider audience in the age of Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich. Both Drozdoff and Bortkiewicz were undoubtedly fine craftsmen and showed a deep understanding of the piano in the great Russian tradition.
Yefim Bronfman is one of the names that comes up when a pianist asks "What are the highly regarded recordings of Prokofiev's piano works?" Embarrassingly, I had not visited those recordings, but was lucky enough to witness his performance of the composer's piano sonatas at Carnegie's Zankel Hall on November 13. This program included the first half of Prokofiev's contribution to the form, with the other half to be performed at Carnegie on separate occasions next year.
When Vivica showed up on stage you could hear people's rapture. She wore a black dress that complimented her beautiful complexion with a red flower on the left shoulder. She looked absolutely stunning. I've never heard Vivica before, and I must say that she has one of the most gorgeous voices. It's not big, but for Baroque one doesn't need a big voice. Right away, Vivica strikes you with her vocal technique. All the tempi were so fast that one would wonder, how in the world can anyone sing so fast? And not every ensemble can play that fast either. But both Vivica and Europa Galante showed the highest class of musicianship and technique.
MM: Harnoncourt will have the Concertgebouw...and I think maybe he started with the Vienna Philharmonic having them use gut strings... VG: Good for him. MM: And approaching a period style. I should think that would be a great—how do you say?—experience for orchestral musicians, to have them rethink their playing a bit and so forth. There's not much interest in that in the U.S. VG: But I think it’s also...It depends on who does the approaching, I mean Harnoncourt, you can’t argue with him; he’s such an institution in Austria, and then also you were saying, that in Europe in general he’s just...he’s untouchable. He’s brilliant and...