Diverse Program Spotlights Pianist’s Interpretative Talents

Piano Music by Beethoven, Górecki, Brahms; Jelena Cingara, piano. ****

The diverse program on this album puts the spotlight squarely on pianist Jelena Cingara’s versatility as an interpreter and shows that she is at home in and comfortable with different stylistic periods.
First off on the disc is one of Beethoven’s earlier piano sonatas, the op. 31, no. 2, “The Tempest.” The work abounds with passionate intensity and drive in the outer movements, while the middle movement offers a lyrical interlude that balances the emotional fury of the fast movements.
Cingara offers a seamless and fluid performance that is decisive and strong in the opening and closing movements. Her playing of the slow movement is expressive and moves smoothly between the themes. This is a wonderful example of Beethoven done right.
Like Beethoven, Brahms wrote a huge body of works for piano throughout his career. The “Sechs Klavierstücke,” op. 118, which is also featured on this disc, are among his most intimate of his late piano works. The six pieces explore a wide range of emotions and expressions and Cingara captures the mood and character of each beautifully. Her playing is thoughtful and sincere and infused with passion, tenderness, lyricism and exquisite expressiveness throughout.
Balancing the works of these two giants of romanticism on this disc is an early sonata by a master of 20th/21st century music, Henryk Górecki.
His Sonata No. 1, op. 6, was originally composed in 1956, but revised twice, first in 1984, then six years later. It’s a compelling work that calls to mind Prokofiev’s piano music with its virile forcefulness and relentless rhythmic energy.
Here Cingara showcases her virtuosity and interpretative skills. It’s a dynamic, compelling and unflinching perusal of this work, infused with energy and drama. Her playing is intense and effusive, and she holds nothing back in her decisive and impassioned reading. She breathes life into this work and makes it appealing and exciting.

CD Focuses on Two 20th Century Yugoslav Composers

Marko Tajcevic, “Seven Balkan Dances,” Josip Slavenski, Piano Sonata, op. 4; Jelena Cingara, piano. ****

This album features two strongly contrasting works by two significant Yugoslav composers. Pianist Jelena Cingara’s decision to pair these works was a good one, as it shows the diversity of styles that was present in 20th century Yugoslavia.
The “Seven Balkan Dances” by Marko Tajcevic (1900-84) are vibrant and dynamic. Written in a modern harmonic idiom and charged with rhythmic vitality, they’re somewhat reminiscent of Béla Bartók’s Balkan pieces, yet at the same time they are refreshingly different.
Cingara captures the energy and passion of each dance with her well defined rhythmic sense and finely shaded execution. Her playing is crisp with clean intonation and subtle pedaling, and her interpretation leaves nothing to be desired.
The same also holds true for Cingara’s performance of the other work on this disc, the Piano Sonata, op. 4, by Josip Slavenski (1896-1955).
Slavenski’s piece is a study in contrasts; it’s robust and masculine while also exploring a more lyrical thread. It contains folk elements, but it’s also at times abstract. The harmonic language is tonal but within a broader definition of tonality. It’s not an easy task making all of this flow seamlessly, but Cingara manages to do just that in her marvelous interpretation.
As with Tajcevic’s dances, Cingara gives a strong, hearty performance that captures the disparate characteristics of the work. Her playing is clean, crisp, precise and fluid. She makes this piece exciting and vibrant.
This is a fine disc for people who are interested in exploring little known works by composers who are underrepresented on recordings.