Reviews

Nina Kotova
Rachmaninov-Prokofiev: Cello Sonatas

Nina Kotova’s newest project under Warner Classics is nothing less than sublime. The recordings present a hypnotic and utterly soulful expression of passion. The artist expresses her own personal tribute to the classics of her native Russia, and with every single moment there is beauty and chaos and skill and softness and intensity. An unmissable listening experience for 2017.

The project comprises a collection of recordings covering Rachmaninov’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor, which dates from 1901, and Prokofiev’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in C major, composed almost half a century later. The music opens up in a way that stuns, and one that, quite honestly, shines with an intense brightness and power that far outweighs much of the classical performance catalogue of the current century. Nina Kotova has a remarkable way with music, the instrument in this case is a tool to express the story and the emotion of the original works – not merely one that imitates the notes.

Whatever your expectations may be before listening, once you find yourself a few minutes into Kotova’s take on Rachmaninov’s Lento Allegro Moderato, everything will have changed. There is something inescapably captivating about the way the performances embrace the music, and following this, the way the music embraces you as you listen – and in fact steals you away, transporting you somewhere else entirely. The original drama of the music has been born again through Nina Kotova’s work, and to discover these recordings is to be blessed with the strength and escapism of real art.

The arrangement of the tracks on this project is worth paying attention to, as with the essence of classical music using up to a full twelve minutes to cover its ground in some cases, there is a lot to take in, and there are a multitude of emotions and ideas that present themselves as the music unfolds. Moving from track one to the next, and onward through the collection, is incredibly alluring and compelling – the experience of each is intense and memorable and striking, and following this, the anticipation of what will follow is superb; the utmost effective way to capture and keep hold of an audiences attention and affection. Furthermore, with every new performance, with every new journey, the anticipation is met with absolute satisfaction.

The Andante offers a peaceful step to one side, which really allows you to take in and reflect upon what has passed. There is a gentle sadness alongside a beautiful sense of hope, which is so emotional to witness, and so clever in the way that both feelings seem to stand side by side. The Allegro Mosso following this brings an intensely joyful and energetic feeling of summer time, of overcoming darkness, of moving forwards. The intricacies of the cello playing are laid quite bare in moments such as this, and the performance is simply amazing at each and every turn.

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The intensity of the cello sound throughout is phenomenal. The production has been thoughtfully worked so as to really let the intricate details of the artist’s performances step into the spotlight at just the right moments. When the sound is big, heavy and dramatic, the performance appropriately takes you there, and the recording has put a perfect polish on all of this. The piano as well, Kotova’s partner throughout – the Italian-born pianist Fabio Bidini – a beautiful and powerful presentation, with so much genuine passion and power. Both elements collide and crash and fuse together intermittently as the details of each recording take place. The experience is out of this world.

As the collection moves along into the Prokofiev recordings, there is a distinct sense of change, the mood and the performance style expressed by both the cello and the piano shifts entirely, and this shift is incredibly effective considering the singular musicians taking on the challenge of each. Kotova’s technical ability is astonishing, and yet with this the tone and overall sound of her instrument is beautiful and graceful. Her ability to lift the performance from the gentle to the intense within a mere fraction of a second highlights an extreme flexibility.

The project comes to a close with a performance of two shorter pieces from Tchaikovsky, a decision which again highlights the history of the compositions in terms of their original influences, and which also allows listeners to enjoy a peaceful remaining few minutes within which they can really accept and appreciate the monumental and awe-inspiring effect of what has been accomplished. The only disappointing thing about this collection is that it is a indeed a recording; to witness this in real time would no doubt be an unforgettable experience.

Whether as a listener your heart is drawn to the classical sound in every day life or not, what’s on offer here is something that will remove your from your current state of mind, and present you with an intense and magical array of emotions and images. It’s an instrumental journey through time, through history, and the performances bringing each moment to light are second to none. The level of skill is magnificent, but perhaps much more than this – the level of passion and genuine emotion evident in the performances is gripping. To begin listening is to almost certainly fall victim to the irresistible sound of depth and sincerity.

The collection will be available on January 13th, you can purchase it via the usual online music retailers listed here or by clicking through to WMG Artists. Find and follow Nina Kotova on Facebook and Twitter. Visit her Website for further information and music.

Rebecca CullenMusician & writer with an MA in Songwriting.


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