(Note: In the spirit of the album’s inspiration, this review also pays special homage to 13.)
In selecting the program for his début album, pianist David Aladashvili used 13 as catalyst for the works. This is not at all surprising—as the young man explains in his handwritten liner notes—given that he was born April 13, 1990 and began taking music seriously at the outset of his teenage years.
Given that my own son was born April 13, 1981 and today marks the 13th anniversary of our last walk together, Op. 13 found its way to the front of the line of my considerable CD review backlog.
Scriabin’s early Preludes easily fit the numeric conceit: Opus 13 and early work. The opener is nicely balanced, featuring a convincing emotional range and architectural structure. No. 2—most Chopinesque of the set—a fine web of misty/mystical tone. Aladashvili employs a beautifully honed, delicate touch and welcome introspection for the Andante. The Steinway’s upper register is deftly rung/wrung as No. 4’s drama is revealed. The D Major Prelude is a model of amiability: yet another colour emerges. Power and excitement permeate the finale, before the close bids a quiet goodbye.
Of the thirteen tracks which comprise Schumann’s Symphonic Études, none speaks more about the fledgling composer’s emerging gifts and pianist’s present-day state-of-his-art than the Finale. In sum, it is a fine celebration of lessons learned and exciting potential for the possibilities to come. What that the sun also came out just prior to the last return: seems like nature is also enthused. No doubt Brahms “went to school” on these tightly crafted variations, notably Étude X whose edgy inner voicings would serve the German master on many, many occasions. As time goes on and Aladashvili further understands that less is almost always far more when easing affectation into the flow, his views on Schumann’s (and others, of course) will be sought out by audiences everywhere. Still, both of the more thoughtful variants (II, which slightly suffers from a strident tone for contrast and especially XI where the inner voices and sense of misterioso are mesmerizing) reveal a vrai cantabile touch that captivates the ear at every twist and turn.
13 Compositions by 13 Composers
Light: Bittersweet rays sooth the weary soul, tempered with bits of jazz; one-tone finish.
Presto furioso: If this be insanity, bring it on—not as mad as all that.
Prelude: Thoughtfully introspective, yet always with a sure sense of direction; adieu somewhat trite.
Bagatelle No. 1: Repetition—singular, fragments—has its effect while the arc is surveyed, yielding consonance.
Saperavi: Their cups overflow with friendship unbound, yin-yang all leading to the motivic 13th.
a minor prayer: So alone it hurts, repeat after me, trying to scale my way out.
Largo desolato: I make of it a brooding search which struggles through its extreme range.
Celtlilá: Brevity unmasked and the timeless question—Can you see the wind?—discreetly posed.
Mini: Perpetuum mobile as personality trait, soars through highs and lows with dexterous ease.
Weinerei: Birthing music at the bar, fluid indeed infused with dollops of cocktail chords.
“Thirteen”: This baker’s dozen defines fleeting inventiveness, making its pitches prove less is more.
Her Piano Is Dreaming: Prepared, sampled, manipulated, and mixed; ritornello elements numb/soothe as the ear may be.
“Farewell” Etude: Lovingly presented, refusing to look ahead, rekindled romantic forms and styles bid totsiens. JWR