Friday, 27 June 2014

Yulia Chaplina’s Russian piano recital for Champs Hill Records is a real joy

Pianist Yulia Chaplina was born in 1987 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, giving her debut performance, aged seven, performing Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in F minor with the Rostov State Symphony Orchestra.

Chaplina studied in Rostov and Moscow with Naum Shtarkman before moving to Berlin, in 2006, to study with Professor Klaus Hellwig at the Universität der Künste. She has received awards from the Menuhin and Hindemith Foundations in Germany and the Mstislav Rostropovitch Foundation in Russia. She holds a Master of Music degree (Distinction) from the Royal College of Music in London where she studied with Dmitri Alexeev. Yulia also had lessons with Andras Schiff, Mitsuko Uchida and Paul Badura-Skoda.

Chaplina has won prizes in piano competitions in Paris, Andorra, Kiev, Kharkov and St. Petersburg. After winning the first prize and gold medal in the junior section of the 2004 Tchaikovsky International Competition, Chaplina appeared as concerto soloist in Moscow, Dubrovnik, Busan and Tokyo. A subsequent recital tour of Japan followed, as well as recitals in Italy, France and Poland. Since then, she has performed extensively in Europe and Asia, most recently in Japan, Spain, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.

As well as recent concerto performances with the Hiroshima and Sendai Symphony Orchestras, Yulia appeared as concerto soloist in the Philharmonie, Berlin in October 2010.

Yulia Chaplina now appears on a new release from Champs Hill Records  in an all Russian programme of works by Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Gubaidulina and Scriabin.


Yulia Chaplina shows that she has technique galore in the Allegro agitato of Rachmaninov’s Piano Sonata No.2, Op.36 played here in the composer’s 1931 version. However, she does not rush the entry, allowing the music to unfold naturally whilst preserving a sense of reserved power and tension so that when the music calms there is a palpable sense of release. There are thoughtful moments where Chaplina gives the feel of improvisation. In many ways this is a very personal performance, full of character and hugely enjoyable. She creates a wonderful atmosphere with sudden little rushes and much fire in places.

Chaplina’s pacing of the Non allegro – Lento has many of the same qualities, gently and expansively laid out and an improvisatory feel, a view that brings much to Rachmaninov’s music. A mention should be made of this pianist’s beautiful touch in this movement which rises powerfully. Beautifully done.

With the final movement, L’istesso tempo – allegro molto, Chaplina’s fiery playing emerges again, never rushed, always an admirable clarity which pays dividends. There are some really fiery outbursts that contrast so well with her more restrained passages, building finely to Rachmaninov’s wonderful conclusion.

Chaplina follows the Rachmaninov with Tchaikovsky’s Lullaby No.1, Op.16 arranged for piano by the composer. This is hauntingly beautiful with this pianist again showing her fine touch.

In the Andante Maestoso from The Nutcracker Suite, Tchaikovsky’s lovely theme is given an equally fine performance in Pletnev’s piano transcription. This is a fiendishly difficult piece to play. Chaplina seems to almost caress the keys and is impressively virtuosic with terrific control and powerful playing in the later stages.

Sofia Asgatovna Gubaidulina represents contemporary Russian music on this disc with her Chaconne which opens with strident discords yet, as it progresses, there is an appealing harmonic quality to the music with Chaplina coaxing out the underlying form of this distinctive yet approachable work, full of energy. Chaplina gives a fearless performance of this work, in which she seems to draw parallels with the earlier Russians.

If Gubaidulina seems to be at the cutting edge of composition today, then Scriabin was at the cutting edge in the early 20th century. His one movement Sonata No.9, Op.68 gains structurally from Chaplina’s approach, the way she allows the music to unfold, an inevitability about it. And, wow, doesn’t she point up the parallels with Gubaidulina, which I hadn’t heard before. She builds the sonata wonderfully bringing out all the subtle little twists and turns with so much thought and care behind the virtuosic playing.

With Rachmaninov’s masterly Variations on a theme of Corelli, Op.42 Chaplina rises from a thoughtful statement of the theme bringing her care and superb judgement of tempo and dynamics to the variety of moods of these variations. There are many fine moments here such as Variations 3, beautifully paced, the Andante which has an almost threatening quality before the extrovert Allegro, a beautifully languid Variation 9, a wonderful Intermezzo where Chaplina seems so inside Rachmaninov’s idiom with terrific rippling chords and a magical Variation 15 that takes us into new worlds. Her superb technique is shown in Variation 17 as well as the formidable Variation 20 and a Coda that makes an absolutely wonderful conclusion.

There is some formidable playing from Yulia Chaplina in this recital, but it is her exquisite judgement of tempo and dynamics and fine touch that stand out equally. This disc is a real joy.

She receives an excellent recording from Champs Hill’s Music Room, in West Sussex, England, a venue that has proved to be so successful for many previous recordings. There are excellent booklet notes.

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