Why would anyone other than dedicated fans of Soviet pianists be interested in the 13th and final volume in Vista Vera's series called The Legacy of Maria Yudina? After all, her fans will already know the aesthetic austerity, the spiritual severity, and the uncompromising musicality of Yudina's playing from the previous 12 volumes in the series, and they will perforce have to get this volume, too. But why would non-Yudina fans go for it? It certainly wouldn't be for the sound. Recorded live in the USSR between 1949 and 1969 but mostly between 1952 and 1958, the recordings are at best dim and dull and at worst hard and harsh.
They would go for it, of course, for the performances. In this program of works by Mussorgsky, Medtner, and Prokofiev, Yudina does what she does best -- breathes into music the kind of life that makes it transcendent. In the two longest works here -- Medtner's three-movement Sonata-Triad and Prokofiev's 20-movement Visions Fugitives -- Yudina turns the ardent romanticism of the former into a passionate confession of emotion and the elusive modernism of the latter into a series of evanescent poems on the twin subjects of eternity and infinity. In Prokofiev's transcription of Romeo and Juliet Before Parting from the eponymous ballet, she brings universality to a hymn of adolescent love. And those aren't even the best performances on the disc -- an honor reserved for the three works by Mussorgsky. Yudina plumbs what are basically salon works -- a Meditation and an Album Leaf -- for genuine profundity reminiscent of late Beethoven. But even better, she takes A. Kamensky's bombastic transcriptions of three moments from the opera Boris Godunov -- "The Holy Fool," "The Bell Ringing," and "Glory" -- and discovers in them the whole tragedy of Russia's dark and bloody history. Score-watching listeners should be forewarned that Yudina sometimes misses handfuls of notes and occasionally has a tone like a sledgehammer; but, when it comes to artistic revelations, Yudina has no superior.