The hip graphic design and meaningless Heart title of this release by Russian (and partly German-trained) pianist Natalia Nikolai belies a pretty straightforward reading of the sets of 24 preludes by Alexander Scriabin (or, in the German spelling, Skrjabin) and by Frédéric Chopin. In the Scriabin pieces, straightforward may be the way to go. These are early works, without the experiments in synaesthesia characteristic of the composer's later career, and they're closely linked to the Chopin preludes in terms of texture and overall structure. Nikolai pushes the Scriabin preludes a bit toward Chopin rather than toward Scriabin's later works. Of course, she also pushes Chopin a bit forward toward Scriabin. She offers generally quiet, interior interpretations of the 24 Chopin preludes, technically confident in the virtuoso passages but finding the meat of the music in slower preludes; here she adds rhythmic tension not through the usual type of tempo rubato, but through stretching the relationship between the hands; sample the way the Prelude in E minor, Op. 28/4, is moved forward without the application of big dynamic changes by the edgy little delay of the recurring two-note, right-hand figure as it develops in the second major statement of the theme. The piece almost seems to breathe, as do many others on the album; Nikolai is able to get a lot out of a very small gesture, and the collection of 48 short pieces, rather than wearing on the ears, begins to weave a spell. Nikolai is aided by fine sound from the small Solo Musica label in Munich. She has plenty of competition in the Chopin, but this is definitely recommended for those looking for a pairing with the Scriabin preludes.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|24 Préludes, Op. 11|
|24 Préludes, Op. 28|