by Anthony Kershaw
Schumann Piano Sonata No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22
Chopin Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58
Grace Nikae, piano
Tempora Records 620009
Playing time: 43:34
This is US pianist Grace Nikae’s second release on Tempora Records. Her first, Fantasies, received very positive notices, not least in Audiophilia. I very much enjoyed her wonderful musicianship, fluid technique and ringing sound.
This second Nikae release is a completely different kettle of fish. Fantasies contained some very difficult music to be sure, but this new CD has two of the towering benchmarks of Romantic piano literature, recorded by giants, feared by many, and completely mastered by few.
Like many of todays young guns, this music holds no fears technically for Nikae. She takes both pieces in her stride and is comfortable in reproducing the sound world of the restless, syncopated Schumann and the more rhapsodic nature of Chopin.
Interestingly, it was Schumann who is quoted as describing Chopin’s music as ‘cannons behind the flowers’. The contemporaries were admirers of each others work, with the most admiration flowing from Schumann. Nikae manages to convey the powerful cannons behind the most delicate of touch. Her Chopin is so very musical. The music breathes and has time to build and conclude naturally. Lovely. The Finale is absolutely scintillating!
Her Schumann Sonata is not quite as successful, but excellent nonetheless. The glorious Andantino is especially fine. The incredibly difficult opening movement is done well but lacks the clarity and power of Martha Argerich. In other parts of the Sonata, I prefer Nikae. Comparison with the great Argerich is praise indeed.
Although recorded in a different space than Fantasies (this time, the Victoria de Los Angeles Conservatory, Madrid), the recordings are strikingly similar. The piano is mic’d up close and personal, but the recording retains enough of the hall for some transient bloom. I like it.
Grace Nikae is making quite a name for herself and for all the right reasons. She is a truly expressive player (so many technophiles around these days), yet has the fingers to do masterpieces like the Schumann and Chopin justice. Her promotion is truly 21st Century. She is building following on Twitter and her blog, Stretching Intervals is one of my favourite stops (web designers, check it out for what I think is design perfection). She even has her own YouTube channel.
Sonatas Schumann|Chopin can be found on iTunes or may be purchased from Audiophilia’s affiliate, Amazon, with confidence. Highly recommended.