Lev Vinocour

Tschaikowsky: Oh! Chante encore!

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Lev Vinocour combines Tchaikovsky's popular suite The Seasons with a few transcriptions for this program of piano music, Oh! Chante encore! The emphatic punctuation seems to go with Vinocour's playing -- not that he plays Tchaikovsky's music with hamminess, but his enjoyment of the music saturates his performance. The Seasons begin with a lovingly thoughtful "January." Other quiet pictures from the set are similarly presented with care. "May," subtitled "White Nights," has almost a forced stillness in its outer parts, it is that intent. However, there is a cheerful joy in its middle section, and that buoyancy is felt in the more animated sections of the suite. In those movements, as well as in the transcription of the Polonaise from Eugene Onegin, Vinocour strives to come as close to the energetic levels of Tchaikovsky's ballets as he can within the capabilities of his single instrument. The Dumka also alternates broodiness with ostentation, and while the contrasts are extreme, Vinocour balances them by instinctively shaping the transitions. There are moments in the Dumka, and even more in the song transcriptions, where Vinocour could have used a little more lyricism to bring out Tchaikovsky's melodies. Because Vinocour enjoys the composer's music so much, he also includes Tchaikovsky's arrangement of the Rondo movement of Weber's Piano Sonata No. 1. Tchaikovsky essentially switched Weber's original right-hand and left-hand parts, making it a real challenge to those used to the left hand being just accompaniment. Vinocour is not only up to the challenge, as there are numerous points where he shows how much like Tchaikovsky's own music the Rondo is in its transformed state. The constant movement of the lower register with the bouncy upper line is reminiscent of many similar instances in The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. There are many other works Vinocour could have chosen for his program -- other than the ever-popular The Seasons -- that would have broadened the picture of Tchaikovsky as a composer for the piano even more. Nevertheless, Vinocour has managed to show how Tchaikovsky's piano music fits with the rest of his output, and he certainly has shared his deep appreciation of it.

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