At age 5, Elena Ulyanova began to study piano with her mother, Larisa, in Saki,
Crimea. In 1997, at Moscow Conser-vatory, she was a finalist and won Special
prize and Diploma in the Second Inter-national Rachmaninov competition. She
received the Master of Music degree from Moscow Conservatory in 1998 under the
instruction of Victor Merzhanov, who is one of the great Russian pianists of the
20th century. This competition has been a stepping-stone for other pianists such
as Konstantin Scherbakov, Olga Kern, and Nikolai Luganski. Elena's repertoir
includes concertos of Liszt, Rachmaninov, Grieg, Prokofiev, Mozart, and
Beethoven as well as a wide variety of solo music. She has performed in Russia,
Korea, Netherlands, China, Romania, Poland, Scotland, Great Britain, and
Bulgaria for solo and orchestra concerts.
Ferenz LISZT (1811-1886)
Liszt placed the role of pianist in a new perspective. The solo piano recital
was his innovation in 1840. His virtuoso attitude resulted in a new world of
possibility. The art of transcription reached new heights under his pen. His
association of nationalism, religion, philosophy, literature, art, and nature
into his music was an unprecedented extension of the 19th century romanticism.
Liszt's Transcendental Etudes began around 1826, in the style of Czerny. In
1838, he revised them to technical models of virtuosic gluttony. The simplified
versions on this disk are from 1851. The passionate character of number 10,
reflect the intensity of Beethoven's Appassionata, and Chopin's fourth Ballade.
Arthur Friedheim vividly elucidated "Harmonies Du Soir":
I recall one of my later lessons with him at the Villa d'Este, in Tivoli, not
far from Rome. Late one afternoon I sat down at the piano to play Liszt's
"Harmonies du Soir."
Before I had time to begin, he called me to the window. With a wide sweep of the
arm, he pointed out the slanting rays of the declining sun, which were mellowing
the landscape with the delicate glamour of the approaching twilight. "Play
that," he said. "There are your evening harmonies.
Liszt borrowed the title of "Apres une lecture du Dante: Fantasia quasi sonata"
from a poem by Victor Hugo. Hugo's poem reads "Abandon hope all ye who enter
here." It begins with tri-tones, which are called "diabolus in musica." We can
hear from Dante's Inferno "Here sighs, with lamentations and loud moans,
resounded through the air pierced by no star, that e'en I wept at entering.
Strange tongues, horrible cries, words of pain, …"
A great musician must comply with the composer's demands as well as offer a
different perspective. Because of the character and technical demands of his
music, this balance is difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, Elena's reading of
these Liszt compositions offers a masterful interpretation and acute insight
into his intentions.