Evgeni Koroliov
Piano

DVD & CD Reviews

DVD & CD Reviews

Evgeni Koroliov

DVD Bach: Goldberg-Variations – Label: EuroArts

I laughed. I cried. Mostly, I listened, rapt, to German-based Russian pianist Koroliov as he unfurled the magical tapestry of the Goldberg Variations, written by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1742. Koroliov has said that a childhood inspiration was hearing Glenn Gould play in Moscow in 1957. But this performance goes well beyond anything Gould ever managed. Its hard to imagine a more satisfying set of Goldbergs than this extraordinary live performance from the Bach Festival in Leipzig last year.
The seduction happens on many levels: Koroliovs clear, unaffected articulation, absolute balance between both hands, mastery over the architectural progress of the 30 variations (plus opening and closing Aria) and a crystalline sound from the Hamburg Steinway. Koroliovs rhythmic vitality and clever highlighting of inner voices illuminates this mathematical marvel: Bachs variations are as much an intellectual puzzle as they are beautiful music.
There is not much to see on the DVD, which leaves you free to close your eyes. I was lucky enough to watch the sun gild passing clouds outside my window and contemplate what a miracle it is to have 80 minutes of eternal beauty available to me on the DVD shelf.

Toronto Star, John Terauds, 2th December 2008
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Bach: Goldberg-Variations – Label: Hänssler Classic

Evgeni Koroliov takes many of his tempo and articulation cues from Glenn Goulds influential 1981 Goldbergs, from the unbridled virtuosity of the cross-handed movements to the severe and stark minor-key 15th and 25th variations. Yet Koroliov is very much his own man. Unlike Gould, Koroliov opts for all the repeats, save for the Aria da Capo reprise. Ornamentation is well-considered, yet relatively conservative in comparison with Andras Schiffs extroverted creativity, although Koroliov does take the canon at the sixth repeats up an octave. At 84 minutes, this fine performance requires two discs and more shelf space than the aforementioned Schiff. The excellent, detailed annotations, though, make this entry in Hänsslers complete Bach edition well worth considering.

www.classicstoday.com, Jed Distler
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Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier. Book 1 – Label: Tacet

Evgeni Koroliovs recordings of The Art of Fugue (for Tacet) and the Goldberg Variations (for Hänssler) have placed him in the forefront of todays Bach pianists. This new recording of Book One of the Well-Tempered Clavier confirms his stature in this repertoire beyond a shadow of a doubt. Koroliov plays this music with such poetry, finesse, and real joy that questions of "authenticity" or instrument selection fade into insignificance.
In his title for the work, Bach deliberately avoided naming a specific keyboard instrument, and its known that this music could and would certainly have been played on everything from a harpsichord to clavichord, organ, or even early piano. In fact, Bachs music is a celebration of keyboard virtuosity, and Koroliovs performance offers a genuine display of the pianists art. His playing of the G major fugue, for example, has the brittle clarity of the harpsichord but a witty brilliance that is all his own. On the other hand, the mesmerizing, gradual crescendo and diminuendo he makes of the long C-sharp major fugue offers a textbook lesson in how to use the pianos dynamic shadings to enhance the clarity and harmonic tension of Bachs contrapuntal lines. Even the more familiar fugues--the two openers, for example, in C major and minor--sound refreshingly vital and interesting, owing to a combination of irresistible forward momentum and a really intelligent, ear-catching approach to voice leading.
Koroliovs view of the preludes is no less impressive: he perfectly catches the subdued, elegiac quality of the pieces in G minor and G-sharp minor. His playing has all the gentle intimacy of the clavichord. On the other hand, hes not afraid to attack the F-sharp minor prelude with real anger and an almost Lisztian bravura, and he can stroke the simple, arpeggio preludes (such as the very first, in C major) with a dreamy sensuality that has us confused as to whether we are listening to Chopin or Bach, and frankly not caring which. In sum, this is a performance worthy to stand beside Gould, Tureck, Schiff, Fischer, or any other competing version that you can name. And its better recorded than any of them. Bring on Book Two!

www.classicstoday.com, David Hurwitz
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Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier. Book 2 – Label: Tacet

As with his magnificent recording of Bachs Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1, Evgeni Koroliov interprets Book 2 from a pianistic angle, taking advantage of the instruments potential for varied colors, articulations, and dynamics, while at the same time avoiding stylistic anachronisms. There are so many details to savor, you hardly know where to begin. His unconventionally slow pace for the C minor fugue allows the contrapuntal lines to take on a more vocal quality than usual. Note how gorgeously he shapes the left hands often-ignored top line in the D-flat prelude and the subtle rubato with which he inflects the C-sharp minor fugue. In contrast to the D major preludes militant pomp, Koroliov takes an unusually brisk, nimble, and witty approach to its corresponding fugue (the A-flat fugue is similarly dispatched).
By contrast, Koroliovs spacious, reverential way with the E major fugue recalls Glenn Goulds similarly drawn-out mono recording. He resists Angela Hewitts dynamic contrivances in the difficult-to-clarify G minor fugue, achieving textural variety by means of his marvelously controlled staccato articulation. Koroliov keeps the G-sharp minor fugues lines afloat so that their accents fall over rather than on the barlines. The pianists gentle and introspective A minor prelude markedly contrasts to his bleak and hard-nosed way with its corresponding fugue. What a joy it is to experience Koroliovs authoritative and individual Bach pianism at its best. Dont miss this release!

www.classicstoday.com, Jed Distler
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Bach: The Arte of Fugue – Label: Tacet

… What counts is Koroliovs non-egoistic mastery plus his total spiritual and musical immersion into Bachs valedictory opus. The pianist appears to have a brain in every finger as he contours the interweaving and often knotty polyphony with effortless control no matter what the tempo may be. On the back cover blurb, composer Gyorgi Ligeti claims that he would listen to this recording on a desert island until his last breath. Well see about that! Tacets clarion engineering does full justice to Koroliovs warm, firmly focused sonority. A recording youll savor for years to come.

www.classicstoday.com, Jed Distler

…If it were a life-or-death choice of choosing only two Art of Fugue recordings, they would be Koroliovs solo piano account (Tacet) and Munchingers with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra (Decca), Koroliovs recording comes with a fortissimo recommendation, emblazoned on the packaging, from the late composer Gyorgy Ligeti, a man usually not given to hyperbole or easy praise ("but if I am to be allowed only one musical work on my desert island", he writes, "then I should choose Koroliovs Bach, because forsaken, starving and dying of thirst, I would listen to it right up to my last breath").
Over the top, perhaps, but listen to it a few times and you will begin to see what he means. Koroliov never over-exploits the expressive colourations possible for the piano. He brings the rigour and complexity of Bachs complex contrapuntal textures across with the greatest clarity, but also makes them sing without Chopinising them. Sometimes the combination of sheer virtuosity and control is thrilling - listen to Contrapunctus IV - and his ability to bring out expressive shadings while maintaining the same strict control is also something to hear. Im thinking especially of contrapuncti VIII and X and the concluding, incomplete fugue. For the two double-keyboard contrapuncti he is joined by Ljupka Hadzigeorgieva, and it is clearly a meeting of minds.

www.bangkokpost.com, January 2012
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Debussy: „Préludes pour piano“ – Evgeni Koroliov – Label: Tacet

There are good pianists, there are grandiose pianists, and there is Evgeni Koroliov: With every new recording, this Russian, up to now predominantly heard with Bach, sets new standards. With Debussy he has to compete with giants like Gieseking and Michelangeli – and succeeds: Never before was this series of marvellous tableaus, which waver between jest and earnest, to be heard with such expressive transparency.

Spiegel Kultur, January 2005
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Handel: Klaviersuiten – Evgeni Koroliov – Label: Profil/Hänssler

Evgeni Koroliov plays Suites by George Frederick Handel: One of the best interpreters of Bach also animates Handel with his calm and humility. A superb mastery of legato, truly passionate in its discretion.

DIE ZEIT, 31.07.2008
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Haydn: Piano Sonatas in G Hob. 11; F Hob. 23; C Hob. 50; C minor Hob. 20; Variations in F minor – Label: Profil Medien Günter Hänssler

Evgeni Koroliov is such an interesting pianist that everything he records usually is worth hearing, and this disc is no exception. It is a very romantic conception of Haydns music, one that works best in the proto-Chopinesque Variations in F minor, certainly one of the more remarkable keyboard works of the classical period. Koroliov catches the funeral march character of its opening theme particularly well, with exquisite gradations of touch and tone that will keep you listening despite the subdued dynamic level. In short, its a performance both very beautiful and emotionally expressive. Both the G major and F major sonatas are lighter works, and Koroliov catches their playful qualities quite well. He also projects the humor of the great C major sonatas finale very successfully – more subtly than usual, perhaps, but with an excellent sense of timing, and the diminuendo ending of the second-half repeat is delicious.
My only reservations concern the great C minor sonata, the performance of which has all of the qualities previously mentioned, but that would have benefited from a harder, more rhythmically punchy approach, or at least an interpretation with more edge and less Mozartian roundness of tone and gentility of phrasing. This is particularly true of the finale, a minuet in all but name, whose Sturm und Drang qualities emerge more successfully in some of the recent performances with fortepiano (such as Brautigams on BIS). Its a very good performance nonetheless, particularly in the central andante, but theres more angst here than Koroliov chooses to reveal. Despite this concern, I can recommend this very well-recorded disc enthusiastically because the sheer technical standard and musical intelligence at work are so outstandingly high.

www.classicstoday.com, David Hurwitz, 15.07.2008

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