Review for Anna Tsybuleva’s album “Fantasien” in Fanfare Magazine

Dec 27, 2017

The piano playing of this magnetic young Russian artist is thoughtful, elegant, yet exciting. The excitement is not of the variety that dazzles, compared to, to cite one example, the brilliantly bristling performance of the Schubert made by Richter. Tsybuleva takes a couple of minutes longer to play the Wanderer Fantasy than her compatriot, but finds a different world, with more nooks and crannies and certainly less sense of urgency. I have admired Richter’s take on this music for a long time—indeed, he was my introduction to it—but this new recording is even more satisfying for its broader approach. The quirky Beethoven Phantasie (I am using the different spellings of the format that are found on the album) also benefits from a sense of repose and long vision. The weirdness of the music is ameliorated by Tsybuleva’s ability to find a sense of wholeness, as opposed to lurching from one contrasting corner to another. Her reading of the lovely C. P. E. Bach Fantasie is evocative and even dreamy, and she turns in a solid, spirited rendition of the great Brahms opus.

This is a concept album, with the subject of fantasy as the theme. I did not get a sense of thematic unity, and I actually think that is to the credit of Tsybuleva’s artistry. Instead of trying to connect to works in some way, she examines the fantasy concept on a case by case basis, stepping aside to let the composers make their own statements. We get C. P. E. Bach’s decorative yet expressive take, Beethoven’s eccentricity, Schubert’s operatic vision, and the full-throated high Romanticism of Brahms. Welcome, Anna, you are an artist of great heart, mind, and fabulous fingers. Encore!

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