Dmitry Paperno, piano
Cedille Records CDR 90000 044
"For collectors of fine keyboard artistry, as well as connoisseurs of Paperno, this is another addition to Cedille's already impressive catalogue of sonically vibrant, musically gratifying series of recitals." (Audiophile Audition)
"Medtner['s Sonata Reminiscenza is] . . . arguably the gem of this already exceptional recital . . . All in all, a significant addition to Paperno's small but consistently distinguished discography. Highest recommendation." (Fanfare)
There's a joke about a tourist in New York who asks a passerby how to get to Carnegie Hall. "Practice, practice, practice," he's told. During the 1970s and '80s, the answer could also have been, "Emigrate from Russia." With numbing regularity, another Russian emigre "sensation" would fly into New York on the wings of hope, only to fall off the cultural radar soon after.
Few of these ballyhooed Soviet defectors arrived with the talent or credentials of Dmitry Paperno, an unpresuming pianist who celebrated his seventieth birthday in 1999 in his adopted hometown of Chicago. Culled from Paperno's live broadcasts for Chicago fine arts station WFMT-FM from 1980 to 1991, this CD pays tribute to Paperno, his sixth for the independent Chicago label.
Born in Kiev, Paperno studied at the Moscow Conservatory with legendary teacher Alexander Goldenweiser, whose personal contacts included Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninov, Scriabin, and Medtner. After an impressive showing at the 1955 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, Paperno enjoyed a two-decade career as a major Soviet concert and recording artist. He performed some 1,500 concerts and made numerous recordings for the state-run Melodiya label, including four solo recital albums.
In 1976, the quiet, self-effacing pianist emigrated to the US. Unlike so many of his counterparts, he chose to bypass New York's pressurized music scene and settle in the Midwest. Paperno pursued a low-profile career. A music professor at Chicago's DePaul University since 1977, Paperno maintained a modest concert schedule until his March 1992 retirement from public performance, because of a worsening condition in his hands. Although he no longer performs publicly, Paperno continues to teach, conduct master classes, and serve on competition juries.
In 1989, Jim Ginsburg launched the Cedille Records label, literally coaxing Paperno back into the recording studio as Cedille's first artist. Soon, a new audience began noticing that Paperno is, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer said in a concert review, "clearly a remarkable pianist."
Stereo Review's Richard Freed, in reviewing Paperno's first Cedille disc, an all-Russian program, 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." Poetry recurs as a theme in Paperno's concert and CD reviews. A Milwaukee Journal critic who attended Paperno's 1977 concert there wrote that Paperno played with "insight, agility, shape, balance, grace, brilliance, and poetry."
Paperno's memoirs, Notes of a Moscow Pianist (Amadeus Press), were published in English in 1998 (an updated and revised version of the Russian-language original). The book provides a first-hand account of the tensions of international music competition, and the rich musical life and political repression of the Cold War years in Moscow. American Record Guide said, "For musicians and Russophiles alike, his book is as riveting as it is indispensable."