FOUR PIECES. FOUR PIANOS
ALEXANDER MELNIKOV, Piano
Harmonia Mundi 902299 / ****1/2
In a musical experiential experiment not often conducted, this very interesting recording has Russian pianist Alexander Melnikov performing on four different pianos from different periods of the instrument's storied history. His selections aptly reflect the most virtuosic works written at a period close to each instrument's construction, thus allowing the listener to appreciate what each would have sounded like during the day.
Opening with Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy on an Alois Graf fortepiano (1828), Melnikov brings a barnstorming yet musical approach to a composer not generally known for his technical virtuosity. The sound is mellow and soft-edged, which is also appropriate for Chopin's 12 Études Op.10, where the requisite prestidigitation seems completely natural on an Erard grand piano (1837).
For Liszt's Reminiscences de Don Juan, Melnikov turns to a Bösendorfer (1875), where he piles on multitudes of the octaves and chords without apology. The piano withstands everything thrown at it. Finally, Stravinsky's Three Movements from Petrushka is heard on a modern Steinway D (2014), which is what we enjoy in concert halls all round the world today. A historical tour of keyboards has rarely sounded this enlightening.