Georgian pianist Nino Gvetadze made her debut at age six and since then has studied with several notable pianists. One of them is Jean-Yves Thibaudet, who thought enough of Gvetadze's talents that they appeared together in 2007, playing the four-hand version of Ravel's Ma mère l'oye; he also invited Gvetadze to play the Spoleto Festival. The following year Gvetadze won second place in the Franz Liszt Competition and completed this recording, Brilliant Classics' Nino Gvetadze: Mussorgsky. The recording was actually made under the aegis of the Young Pianist Foundation and released on the Brilliant Classics label; while outside Europe it may appear as a debut, it is actually the fourth CD that Gvetadze has made. She makes her home in the Netherlands.
Not surprisingly, Pictures at an Exhibition is the main work on the disc. The recorded ambience is rather dry and Gvetadze emphasizes a clean line and accuracy over intensity; she does not bang out Mussorgsky's omnipresent left-hand octaves for affect but simply uses them to support the rest of the texture; while she may be Georgian her sensibility as pianist is French. Gvetadze also makes somewhat exploratory use of rubato effects in a piece where constant tempos are usually the norm; it adds an element of surprise to the performance, but does not illuminate the text. However, there are passages here and there of considerable beauty, particularly in her reading of "The Great Gate of Kiev." Gvetadze chooses her filler wisely, electing to fill out the other half of the disc with a selection of Mussorgsky's shorter piano pieces that remain little known in the West. This is where the album really comes alive; Gvetadze has a special affinity for these neglected works that are often dismissed as salon trivia, but she makes them sing. The qualities of restraint, poise, and balance that hold back some sections of Pictures at an Exhibition brings such underappreciated gems as A Tear and Méditation into the realm of masterworks. Nevertheless, there are still moments where Gvetadze holds back a bit too much, such as in the Fair Scene from Sorochintsï Fair, which survives in Mussorgsky's own piano arrangement, which is radically different from the version in the opera. Gvetadze is definitely a talent worth expecting good things from; indeed, French literature might seem a little more suited to her gifts, but as it is this is a decent recital with some measure of outstanding moments.