Gramophone

Catalina Butcaru is a young Romanian pianist who makes her disc debut with a richly comprehensive programme recorded at the Wigmore Hall. Happier in repose than hyper-activity, her performances, for all their musical quality, suffer from a lack of vitality and vivid imagination. Miroirs , in particular, lacks the quicksilver brilliance of finer Ravelians. Her moths (“Noctuelles”) have put on weight since we last observed their alternating giddiness and languor. On the other hand, in “Une barque sur l’océan”, Butcaru is sensitive to twin aspects of this magical marine-scape, to the powerful undertow beneath its sunlit surface, and it is true that all these readings are quite without the superficial gloss or “knowingness” of many alternative performances.

Berg’s Sonata, with its obsessive wheeling around a single idea, its constantly evolving life and exploration, suits this pianist’s serious and reflective style admirably but once again, in Schumann, she is happier with Eusebius’s dreams that with Florestan’s high spirits. There is too little sense of joyous release in the first molto presto and if she is sensibly sturdy rather than volatile in the treacherous octave play of the Intermezzo at the heart of “Einfach und zart” she is too staid to carry Schumann’s mockery in “Mit einigem Pomp”. Able and musicianly, these performances could have benefited from greater character and projection.

—Bryce Morrison