On Saturday afternoon, April 7, 2018, at the Steinway Gallery in Coral Gables, Florida, Ukranian born pianist Anastasiya Naplekova played a stunning all-Rachmaninoff recital consisting of many seldom played, technically demanding works on Saturday in Miami. After studying with Natalia Melnikova in the Ukraine, Naplekova worked with the noted Rachmaninoff interpreter Santiago Rodriguez in Florida. The program consisted of six Rachmaninoff transcriptions, six Etudes-Tableaux from Op. 39 and the 1932 version of the Second Sonata. Reminiscent of some of the most distinguished pianists of the past, Naplekova played the piano with no physical histrionics. All of the communication was projected by her brilliant fingers, broad range of color and dynamic range.
The recital opened with Rachmaninoff’s transcriptions of Lilacs, op. 25, No. 5, the Minuet from Bizets’ L’Arlesienne and Liebesleid (Kreisler). Each was projected with soft, fluid tone. The transcriptions were followed by six of the nine Etudes-Tableux from op. 39, which are among the last works composed before Rachmaninoff left Russia in 1917. In the Etudes, particularly in the E-flat minor, No. 5, Naplekova played with a much greater dynamic range which brought to mind encore performances by Horowitz and Cliburn, as well as the D major Etude Allegro Moderato, Tempo di Marcia (No. 9) reminiscent of Richter.
The second half began with Daisies, followed by a delightful, remarkably light performance that captured much of the delicacy of the legendary recording of Benno Moiseiwitsch of Rachmaninoff’s Mendelssohn Midsummer Nights’ Dream Scherzo (a quality that has eluded most pianists who have subsequently played the transcription).The transcription of Tchaikovsky’s soft Lullaby provided a striking preface to the brilliant performance of the 1931 version of the Second Sonata in which Naplekova projected much of the great dynamic range and drama that I recall from the November 1968 Horowitz performance of a modified version that I heard in Carnegie Hall.