Within a 24-hour period in late 1975, pianist Dmitry Paperno’s distinguished profile in the Soviet music world rose sharply and then disappeared. No sooner had Melodiya, the state record label, released Paperno’s fourth solo album then the Moscow-trained musician notified officials of his intentions to emigrate to the West, effectively ending his two-decade career as a major Soviet concert and recording artist.
This album comprises what Paperno considers some of his best recordings from his heyday as a Soviet artist.
The 76-minute album comprises digital transfers of Melodiya master tapes from 1967 and 1975. Paperno’s 1975 recordings of Brahms’ Rhapsody in G minor, Op. 79, No. 2; Liszt’s Tarantella and Polonaise No. 2 in E major; and Grieg’s Ballade, Op. 24, appeared on his final Melodiya album. An adulatory Fanfare review (September/October 1978) of that LP, available briefly in the US, praised Paperno’s wide interpretive range, carefully controlled dynamics, and "splendidly clean passagework and much subtle rhythmic inflection." The Liszt Tarantella displays "an intelligence rarely brought to the performance of music by Liszt." The Brahms Rhapsody is "elegantly shaped and bears much rehearsing." The Grieg Ballade is "a real achievement."
"In this particular Romantic repertoire, Paperno’s pianism stands with that of such celebrated Russian pianists as Richter and Gilels," asserts Cedille Records producer Jim Ginsburg, who has worked with Paperno on four previous CDs. "To Paperno, every note has a role to play in the unfolding drama of the piece," Ginsburg says. For example, he invites listeners to compare Paperno’s revelatory reading of Liszt’s Rhapsodie Espagnole with Gilels’ on BMG/Melodiya.
Stereo Review’s Richard Freed, in reviewing Paperno’s first disc on Cedille, was struck by Paperno’s "affectionate conviction" in what he plays and the "touch of poetry" in his playing: "That quality makes itself felt throughout the entire program, in fact, in the least aggressive way: You feel the pianist is really finding it in the music rather than imposing it from the outside," Freed wrote. CD Review noted, "Paperno avoids the twin traps of overinterpretation and repression of honest expression."
Born in Kiev in 1929, Paperno studied at the Moscow Conservatory with legendary teacher Alexander Goldenweiser, whose personal contacts included Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninov, Scriabin, and Medtner. Although Paperno performed throughout the Soviet Union and Eastern-bloc countries and made numerous recordings for Melodiya, the introverted, self-effacing pianist was only occasionally permitted to concertize in the West, most notably as soloist with the USSR State Orchestra at Expo in Brussels in 1958. Since emigrating to the US in 1976, Paperno has pursued a characteristically low-profile career as a professor at Chicago’s DePaul University (since 1977), while maintaining a modest concert schedule. In 1989 Cedille Records coaxed Paperno into the recording studio after a long absence, and a new audience began noticing that Paperno is, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer says, "clearly a remarkable pianist."
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