Barbara Nissman's recital discs of Chopin and Beethoven have a unique quality of intimacy, the ambience of a private performance for a small group of listeners gathered around the piano. This is assuredly different from the false intimacy cultivated by some in order to hide their technical deficiencies. Nissman plays two demanding programs: Beethoven's Waldstein, Moonlight, Appassionata sonatas and Rondo à Capriccio, Op. 129 and Chopin's Polonaise-Fantasy Op. 61, Fantasy in f minor, Op. 49, the Third Scherzo plus other well-known selections with her great facility and extraordinary musicianship. Part of the particular aura of these discs may stem from their having been recorded in the same venue in three consecutive days. Unusual, and recommended.
Turok's Choice October, 2004
Although Barbara Nissman presents the three most popular sonatas, her own brand of vitality and originality will prevent you yawning, No, not another Moonlight . Her very different treatment of the latter's opening movement will make you sit up. She wipes off the sludge of past over-romantic and over-pedalled interpretations to present a crisply restored version with little if any rubato, but with just enough sensitive una corda pedalling to have those moonbeams gliding across the lake for those romanticists who like the work to live up to its title (which Beethoven didn't invent and hated). Not many are aware that within its persistent unified triple figuration this movement is a true sonata form with second subject in a related key. Nissman's clear playing makes you aware of this subtlety. The Minuet, played almost senza pedale , comes through crisp and fresh while the finale is propelled with aptly turbulent momentum. Although Beethoven anticipated some aspects of the romantic era, Nissman correctly sees him as a classicist where form always controls feeling. The volatile feeling in his ideas often threatens to smash classical structure to smithereens, but doesn't quite. Even his most revolutionary works never abandon the classicist's motive development flowing through a planned architecture of formally proportioned key centres. This friction between idea and structure is the very thing that makes Beethoven's music so dramatic. These points are worth bearing in mind when you hear Nissman's stunning pianistic turbulence in evoking the Beethovenian fire in the belly of the Waldstein and Appassionata Sonatas. But she always keeps her aggression within a finely articulated structural sense. Like her Chopin CD, her fingering in the Beethoven is remarkably clear in detail. Where many pianists hit those angry fortissimo outbursts in the opening idea of the Appassionata with too much hysteria, Nissman's clarity with those heavy chords is pin sharp. The way Beethoven threatens the stability of the tonic key in the first page of the Waldstein always reminds me that great art is subversive. Here the ominous mood of Nissman's playing underpins this...Finally, as an encore, she chooses the six-minute Rondo a Capriccio Op 129. Despite its late opus number, it's a very early work which she dates as 1795- 8. True to its sub-title Rage over the Lost Penny, Nissman has it chasing its own tail furiously with gruff Beethovenian humour...
Ian Dando, New Zealand Listener
Summary for the Busy Executive: Breathable Beethoven Click here for a review from classical.net.