Russian Émigrés – Rachmaninov: Piano Sonata No 2, Op 36 (original version); Corelli Variations, Op 42; Alissa Firsova: Lune Rouge, Op 13; Elena Firsova: For Alissa, Op 102; Smirnov: Sonata No 6, Op 157 (Blake Sonata)

Reviewed on Tue 10 Nov, 2015

Alissa Firsova includes Rachmaninov’s Second Sonata in its original 1913 version – grander, more complex than the revision. She plays it with sympathy and imagination, and virtuosity, as she does the much-later Corelli Variations, a compact, crystalline yet bountiful set of commentaries.

At this year’s BBC Proms I was bowled over by the premiere of Alissa Firsova’s Bergen’s Bonfire (Andrew Litton conducting) and am now impressed with her pianistic skills. She includes Rachmaninov’s Second Sonata in its original 1913 version – grander, more complex than the revision. She plays it with sympathy and imagination, and virtuosity, as she does the much-later Corelli Variations, a compact, crystalline yet bountiful set of commentaries. This album is also a family affair. There is music by Firsova’s mum, Elena Firsova, and her dad, Dmitri Smirnov. The former’s For Alissa is enigmatically expressive yet gathers emotional extremes; and the latter’s Blake Sonata is not dissimilar in its mysteries and mood-swings. Alissa does not forget herself: Lune Rouge shows her inheritance with a piece that is touchingly lyrical, highly decorated and picturesque. The recorded sound is full, dynamic and immediate. Gifted Alissa also writes a comprehensive note for the booklet.
–Colin Anderson