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GRAMOPHONE (December / 2017)
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Reviewer:  Harriet Smith

After mixed recitals featuring Chopin (with whom she has been associated since winning the 2010 Chopin Competition), Yulianna Avdeeva now turns her attention to Bach, refreshingly presenting a programme that avoids the single-genre route.  

From the outset, what impresses is her physical command of the music – her D major Toccata sparkles with purpose and has a strong sense of cohesion through its contrasting sections. Avdeeva may be less subtle in her voicing than Hewitt but her way with the concluding virtuoso passage makes for a propulsive ride, while her control of the music’s final slowing-down is pleasingly grandiose. Gould is always fascinating, of course, and his D major Toccata is no exception, extraordinarily dry in terms of articulation and often unhurried but mesmerising nonetheless.  

Avdeeva begins with the A minor English Suite. Though it’s technically impressive, her ornamentation doesn’t always have the inevitability that you find in the finest Bachians and, compared to Perahia’s deeply humane reading of the suite, she can be a bit no-nonsense (sample the closing Gigue). And while I have no quibbles with her pacing of movements, she can’t yet approach Perahia’s quiet pathos in the Sarabande, though the pair of Bourrées that follows is full of nicely drawn-out details.  

Avdeeva ends with the B minor Ouverture, BWV831, a work I most recently heard in the DG reissue of Gieseking’s Bach recordings, which, unlikely as it sounds, makes a telling comparison. Avdeeva makes much (too much?) of the sorrowing Sarabande, alongside which Gieseking seems to cut straight to the heart of the matter, finding a simplicity that is utterly moving. She fares better in the pairs of Gavottes and Passepieds but in the Gigue sounds a tad rushed compared to Hewitt, who argues convincingly in her booklet that if taken too fast it sounds frenzied. And in their different ways both Hewitt and Gieseking find a more joyous springiness in the irrepressible final Echo than the more stolid Avdeeva.


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