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Sofya Gulyak

Sofya Gulyak: Chaconne

Release date: December 2017

Sofya Gulyak, the first ever woman to win the Leeds International Piano Competition in 2009, has returned to the Music Room at Champs Hill to record a second disc, exploring the fascination of the Baroque Chaconne, with its distinctive bassline (which repeats), for Romantic composers and beyond.

Ranging from Bach to Gubaidulina, it showcases her remarkable talent. Her debut album was described as ‘Stunning’ by Gramophone, with the Washington Post admiring her “tremendous precision and coloration ... exquisite soft playing ... with delicacy”

The winner of numerous international competitions, she has appeared as soloist with orchestras including the LPO, St Petersburg Philharmonic, RLPO,
Hallé Orchestra and is demand at piano festivals. She is currently a professor of piano at the Royal College of Music in London.

- Beginning with the Busoni re-invention of Bach’s D minor Chaconne from his Second Partita for Solo Violin, Gulyak takes us on a music journey. The same Bach piece also influenced Nielsen’s Chaconne of 1916, and Casella’s Variations on a Chaconne of 1903, clearly shows his reverence for Bach. Busoni’s original work of 1920, Toccata: Prelude, Fantasy and Chaconne, is also included.

Handel’s Chaconne in G major followed by another famous transcription, or re-imagining, by Liszt which freely re-works the Sarabande and Chaconne from Handel’s “Almira” with late-Romantic sonorities.

Despite being an early work and less familiar, Gubaidulina’s Chaconne of 1962 is a powerful statement of the young female composer and closes this recital.

Champs Hill Records CHRCD117

REVIEW Graham Rickson

Chaconne - Sofya Gulyak (piano) (Champs Hill Records)
Traditionally, a chaconne is an instrumental piece in triple time with a continually repeating bass line. Sofya Gulyak, winner of the 2009 Leeds Piano Competition, gives us seven.


Best known is Busoni’s extraordinary Chaconne in D minor, a bold reinvention of a famous Bach number for solo violin. Gulyak is terrific, her performance combining craggy grandeur and warm intimacy. The final major chord has rarely sounded so well-earned.


An early Chaconne in G major by Handel is a friendlier affair, Gulyak making the work shine. The rapid passage work a few minutes in is exhilarating.


Whereas Liszt’s flamboyant transcription of the Sarabande and Chaconne from Handel’s opera Almira is more of a guilty pleasure, Handel's original almost buckling under the strain. The short prelude to Busoni's late Toccata dazzles and terrifies, preparing us for the dizzying closing chaconne.

Busoni was a friend of Nielsen, whose quirksome, angular Chaconne is worth 10 minutes of anyone's time, the abrupt changes of tone recalling the choleric first movement of his Second Symphony.


Casella’s entertaining Variations on a Chaconne was new to me, as was Sofia Gubaidulina’s stern example, the closing fugue finishing with an exhausted whimper. A fascinating collection, superbly realised and beautifully recorded.

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