- Kreisleriana, 8 fantasies for piano, Op. 16 - Robert Schumann - Ilona Timchenko
- Preludes and Fugues (3) for piano, Op. 16 - Clara Wieck Schumann - Ilona Timchenko
- Variations (28) on a Theme of Paganini, for piano, in A minor, Op. 35 - Johannes Brahms - Ilona Timchenko
Ilona Timchenko's first solo album includes three works that are related not only because of the close friendship between the composers, but also because each of the multi-sectioned pieces look to another artistic endeavor for inspiration. Robert Schumann's "Kreisleriana" was inspired by the E.T.A. Hoffmann story of the same name, a story about an eccentric composer. Clara Schumann's "Preludes and Fugues" were inspired by her and Robert's study of the contrapuntal techniques of Bach. Brahms' "Paganini Variations," which he called "studies," were inspired by Paganini's own set of variations that is his "Caprice No. 24" for violin. All three works also combine technically formal qualities with a poetic sensibility. Timchenko has a wonderful technique, playing with real strength. Not only is she very able, but she is clear about the different lines within the music. Anywhere in all three pieces, if the listener wanted to follow just the counter-melody or the bass harmony or any single voice, s/he could do it. Each is distinctly separable, but not to the point where expression is sacrificed. Yet she tempers any forcefulness and systematic analysis with an instinctive feeling of musical expression that is far from indulgent or overly Romantic. The "Preludes and Fugues" and the "Variations" are especially more natural sounding or fluid in direction in her hands than "Kreisleriana." In the slower, more thoughtful sections of that work, as in the second fantasy, she plays with a lovely touch and conscious phrasing, but there is sometimes too much consciousness in the phrasing. Anywhere there is an accelerando or increasing dynamic markings, as in the end of the third fantasy, she sounds like she's allowing herself to be more intuitive, and, thus, the music is communicated more effectively, which is how the Clara Schumann and the Brahms sound throughout. Despite that inconsistency, Timchenko makes a very good first impression with this recording.