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The Soul of the Music


 

She begins gently, tenderly, soulfully. The first of Beethovenís six Bagatelles op. 126 in Mirjana Rajicís recorded version has something very inward about it, this is Romanticism avant la lettre. But with Beethoven things never stay that way for long. The following Allegro is full of bounce, charisma and virtuosity. The piece hurls itself along, almost to the brink of the abyss. This is Beethoven as we know him, the shock-headed Peter of musical history. Rajic plays these pieces as if the composer were looking over her shoulder, breathing down her neck. Written shortly before his death, they are not just chippings from the workbench, more like aphorisms indicting the evils of the world but without so much as a modicum of self-pity. And that is precisely how Mirjana Rajic performs them.

Luckily, the engineering supports her to the hilt. Rajicís rendering of Lisztís Venezia e Napoli is completely at one with the spirit of the composition. Runs and arpeggios like strings of pearls, the fingers expressive of the pianistís total immersion in the music and what it stands for, a performance full of the most natural respiration. The melancholy of the lagoons, the Byronic feel of the Canzone, the hair-raisingly precipitate Neapolitan prestissimo all share a psychological intensity that transforms mere notes (however thrillingly executed) into a genuine musical experience.

In Prokofievís 8th sonata we again find acute intellectual penetration and highly accomplished manual realisation on a par with one another. Mirjana Rajic is never out to display how brilliantly she can play the piano. The intense passages are intense, the passionate moments are passionate, where structural clarity is of the essence her playing is crystal clear.

Right through to the last chord, a breathtaking recording.

 

Michael Ernst

original review