Flights of fancy aplenty on this delightful disc

Alena Baeva: Fantasy

The Strad Issue: April 2024

Description: Flights of fancy aplenty on this delightful disc 

Musicians: Alena Baeva (violin) Vadym Kholodenko (piano)

 Works: Messiaen: Fantaisie. Schubert: Fantasy in C major. Schumann: Märchenbilder op.113. Stravinsky: Le baiser de la fée – Divertimento

Catalogue number: ALPHA ALPHA1021

Messiaen’s early Fantaisie (1933) has yet to outgrow our familiarity with its ideas as they appear in the later Quartet for the End of Time, but Baeva and Kholodenko bring it to life as a fully fledged work. Unlike several previous recordings, they follow the expression marking rather than the metronome for the passionate second subject, imparting much stronger coherence and energy to the whole with a mastery of Messiaen’s method of episodic juxtaposition. The recording plays its part, too, in underlining the pianist’s articulated attack and the palette of the violinist’s tone.

Baeva is Kyrgyz-born, Kholodenko Ukrainian, and they bring the kind of valedictory sensibility to Schubert’s late Fantasy that emerges in the work of post-Soviet composers such as Sylvestrov and Korndorf. The Fantasy stands with the E flat Mass as one of the most underappreciated products of the composer’s last year; a prelapsarian, Classical elegance shot through with Romantic angst is the essence of late Schubert in performance: holding these elements in balance is again a compelling virtue of this husband-and-wife duo at work.

Both Schumann and Stravinsky evoke lost fairy-tale worlds, and Baeva bestows on each of them a freshness never tainted by anachronism, especially effective in the dewy-eyed awakening of the Märchenbilder. Highly rewarding.