egorov cliburn dehaan

Youri Egorov (piano)
1977 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

rec. 12-19 September 1977,  Ed Landreth Hall, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, USA
DeHaan Records WH003 [2 CDs: 113]

In 1977, Russian pianist Youri Egorov participated in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, held in Fort Worth, Texas. He made it to the semi-finals, and was the clear favorite to go through to the final. Sadly, it was not to be, yet the audience were so impressed with him, they collected $10,000 to give him – the amount he would have won. His career was launched and continued for a further ten years until his untimely death in 1988 from complications of AIDS. He was only 33.

This new 2 CD release from DeHaan Records, has been produced  by Wim de Haan, the webmaster of the Youri Egorov website. CD 1 features the Preliminary Phases 1 and 2 of the 1977 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, whilst  on CD 2 we have the Semi-Final. The Preliminaries highlight only single movements and  extracts of works, the latter compelled by time constraints. In the Semi-final we are treated to complete works.

First we have the preliminaries. The Haydn is confident and determined, whilst Liszt’s La Campanella has subtlety, delicacy and some glistening filigree. The pianist takes a quasi-improvisational approach to the Toccata of Bach’s E minor Partita. Unfortunately, the Chopin Scherzo breaks off at bar 130 due to time limitations.

The Mozart Sonata movement is incorrectly labelled. Egorov performs the opening movement of the Sonata No. 8 in A minor, K310, not that of K330 as labelled. The A minor, one of only two sonatas the composer wrote in a minor key, is one of the finest in the cycle. This performance reveals a sensitive handling of the work’s sombre elements. Finally there’s an incomplete Kreisleriana by Robert Schumann. Egorov invests the work with subtle poetry, bringing out the Florestan and Eusebius character of each piece. He clearly has a great affinity for this music.

Egorov’s semi-final recital took place on September 19, 1977 and opened with a selection of six Scarlatti sonatas. Some of the sonatas he plays are fairly well known, e.g. K. 325 in G major, K. 380 in E major and K. 322 in A major. The other three are completely new to me. The G major K. 125 I enjoyed very much for its scintillating finger work and dazzle. Throughout the sonata group there’s a remarkable and daring technique on display and the articulation is pristine. This is further bolstered by nicely judged tempi, a fine array of dynamic contrasts and a colourful portfolio of shadings.

The Barber Ballade, Op. 46 is an ambitious score with echoes of Scriabin, whose overall demeanour is bleak and misty. This is followed by a wonderful traversal of Prokofiev’s 8th Piano Sonata. Egorov delivers a technically brilliant performance,  underpinned by drama, passion and lyricism. There’s much colour in the playing, and some magical sonorities are achieved.  Phrasing and articulation are well judged and dynamics are perfectly realized.

Since 1977, these recordings have been archived and have been inaccessible to the public. For the first time they have been made available to the listener. The two preliminary rounds were recorded on cassette tapes with minimal microphone equipment. For the  semi-final, a reel-to-reel recorder was employed. The sound quality in the latter is warmer with more bloom, with the former sounding more hard-edged.

This 2-CD set is a limited editions of 100 copies, so it’s advisable to purchase it while it’s available, as I fear it will quickly sell out.

Stephen Greenbank

Availability: DeHaan Records

Disc 1
Haydn — Sonata in C minor, Hob. XVI:20. Finale: Allegro.
Liszt — Grandes études de Paganini, S.141 ‘La campanella’.
J.S. Bach — Partita No. 6 in E minor, BWV 830. Toccata.
Chopin — Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 31 (interrupted).
W.A. Mozart — (Sonata No. 10 in C major, K.330. Allegro).
Should be Sonata No. 8 in A minor, K310. Allegro maestoso
Schumann — Kreisleriana, Op. 16 (interrupted).

Disc 2
Scarlatti — Sonatas: K.325, K.380, K.125, K.322, K.518, K.32.
Barber — Ballade, Op. 46.
Prokofiev — Sonata No. 8 in B-flat major, Op. 84