American Record Guide

These are Ustvolskaya’s complete works for solo piano. Her music is completely original, yet quintessentially Russian, filled with abstracted folk-like fragments, distant echoes of chant (she was profoundly religious), distant austerity, and intimate intimations of prayer. Gongs, carillon, and church bells seem always in the vicinity. Dissonance, filled with mystery, is omnipresent. Harmony is often built with clusters, which are often distant and quiet. Rhythm is mostly regular, counterpoint is often in just two parts. Lines are generally meandering into unseen territories. Tone is consistently melancholy. The pieces have a variable number of movements, including two of single movements and one (Sonata 5) with 10. The 1953 Preludes are included.

Although these works are concise, this enigmatic music is not for the uncommitted listener or performer. Sonatas 1-4 date from 1947-1957; the final two were written nearly 30 years later (1986-8). There’s nothing quite like these. They have been recorded before: check indexes.

Ms Andreeva is most impressive. This is astonishing music (Shostakovich thought so as well). A welcome release.

—Allen Gimbel