BEETHOVEN Bagatelles Op 126
Author: Patrick Rucker
Winner of the 2016 Cleveland and 2007 Paderewski Competitions, as well as a finalist in the 2013 Cliburn, the Russian pianist Nikita Mndoyants would seem to be well on his way to an international career. He is also an accomplished composer who, at the age of 27, teaches orchestration at the Moscow Conservatory. His new release on the Steinway label shows him to be an excellent pianist as well as a wise and thoughtful musician.
Beethoven’s Op 126 Bagatelles seem not so much interpreted as realised. Each small-scale structure is delivered intact, their straightforward expressive gestures immaculately tailored. Individually and as a set, it is as though we are overhearing an improvisation.
Despite the communicative urgency maintained throughout the Davidsbündlertänze, they unfold with an air of unrushed inevitability. Schumann’s wit and mercurial playfulness, whether manifest in rhythmic emphases, melodic contours or voice-leading, are relished without ostentation. Pensiveness and longing are sensitively portrayed with a chaste rubato, coupled with abstemious pedalling. For all its earnestness, Mndoyants’s reading is refreshingly unaffected, bracingly masculine, spontaneous and willing on occasion to speak ardently of love.
Sarcasms fairly bursts with rhythmic vitality, punctuated with oases of wanton languor or stubborn insistence. Prokofiev’s bristling, in-your-face impudence is aptly captured, but in a surprising way: Mndoyants draws from his stylistic arsenal resources of touch and dynamic variety held in reserve in his Beethoven and Schumann. As he nonchalantly peels Prokofiev’s hard-boiled egg, we’re treated to flavours and textures within that are often overlooked.
One risk of programmes consisting entirely of miniatures is that they can leave listeners feeling stinted, desiring the more extended involvement of a variation set or sonata. Happily, Mndoyants is able to achieve a genuine balance of form and content, his interpretations informed, one feels, by his composer’s ear. His carefully wrought miniatures combine the clarity and immediacy of a snapshot with an aphoristic succinctness. The result is an appealing musical experience that both nourishes and satisfies.