Nuit et Jour
Maria Martinova (piano)
rec. 2021, Salle Colonne, Paris
Reviewed as a digital download from a press preview
RUBICON RCD1108 
I will do both pianist and reader a favour and pass over Bulgarian pianist, Maria Martinova’s rather overheated pseudo poetic prose musings in her self-penned liner notes. She is a much better pianist than prose stylist.
Her Debussy is very forthright and emphasises the not often pointed out influence of Liszt on the composer’s piano works. Cloches à travers les feuilles is more like an exuberant romp kicking up autumn leaves rather than the usual delicate Monet landscape. In its own way it is quite bracing. The rising of this Cathédrale engloutie is a somewhat seismic event.
Her vigorous reexamination of this French repertoire is at its best in Ravel’s Gaspard. Even in the normally more delicate opening Ondine Martinova gives no quarter. It turns out Ravel’s most robust score can take some rough treatment as it is very exciting. She gets right to the heart of the unhinged menace that lurks within Ravel’s inspiration and she does so with a display of absolutely fearless virtuosity.
Her own transcription of La Valse glitters dazzlingly though what is vibrantly apparent right from the start is that this manic vision will not end well. She is terrifyingly abandoned even from very early on in the piece when the Viennese waltz dream is still meant to be to be untroubled in its slumbers. This is as much the Vienna of Freud as Klimt. I loved it!
The danger with such a full frontal assault is that, in some of the Debussy pieces included, rather than a healthy iconoclasm what comes over is a certain brusqueness, perhaps even indifference. For me, for example, there just isn’t enough delicacy to her version of La Terrasse des audience with the climax thundered out as though it were Rachmaninov.
The surprise in what is otherwise a fairly conventional programme is the inclusion of a short piece, Nuit et Jour by contemporary Swiss composer, Gregorio Zanon. Another surprise is how well it fits in with the rest of the musical selections. It is a little more modernist in its harmony but could easily be a piece by the young Scriabin. It also seems a good match for Martinova’s sometimes febrile musical sensibilities.
There is a lot of competition in the Debussy and it would be wrong to suggest that Martinova matches up to the very best on record. That caveat out of the way, I greatly enjoyed her larger than life Ravel which stripped away my somewhat jaded preconceptions of having heard it all before. Hers is a huge musical personality and I would love to hear what she could do with, for example, the Prokofiev sonatas.
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
‘Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut’ No.2 from Images II L.120(111) 5.55
‘La Terrasse des audiences du clair de lune’ No.7 from Préludes II L.131(123) 5.07
‘Reflets dans l’eau’ No.1 from Images I L.105(110) 5.55
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Gaspard de la nuit M.55
Gregorio Zanon (b.1980)
Nuit et Jour
‘Cloches à travers les feuilles’ No.1 from Images II 4.29
‘La Cathédrale engloutie’ No.10 from Préludes I L.125(117
La Valse (Poème choréographique) M.72
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