tue 21/11/2017

Yevgeny Sudbin, Wigmore Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Yevgeny Sudbin, Wigmore Hall

Yevgeny Sudbin, Wigmore Hall

Death-haunted Liszt and transcendent Scriabin as you never heard them before

Sudbin: a breeze of shining intelligence blowing through LisztMark Harrison

A second visit to hear this already great young Russian pianist in six months was meant for private pleasure only. Yet no-one in the Wigmore Hall audience last night, I’ll hazard a guess, will ever have heard Liszt playing like Sudbin’s in a first half which itself merited a standing ovation, so the world needs to know about it.

So many Liszt interpreters give us a too-many-notes feeling of rapid indigestion, a heaviness like the hot, humid, blanched days we’ve had recently. Sudbin’s playing was like yesterday’s happier summer evening, all clear colours with a cooling wind, in the recital’s case the breeze of shining intelligence blowing through it, though never without a sense of living the moment. There was no limbering-up to the programme: with Funérailles we were assailed by iron bells which you wouldn’t have thought the bass register even of the house Steinway could emulate.

Funérailles had also featured in Sudbin's January recital. But presented as an opening tidal wave of dazzling clarity, the interpretation seemed to have burst into flames second time around. Fingers hammered down on the keyboard with a rapidity that made them hard to see, yet there was no blurring of Liszt’s colossal grief; every outline, every passing harmony or significant shift, cut through a daring use of the sustaining pedal which had worried me slightly back in January but made total sense now. Space and tranquillity were held in poised equilibrium during the two central epic evocations, the Petrarch Sonnet No 104 and the mostly gentle chordal rain of Harmonies du soir, before the death-demon swept across the canvas again with the F minor Transcendental Étude.

Yevgeny Sudbin's latest disc on BISSudbin’s latest recital disc is, indeed, all about death. This programme, though, allowed for an interlude in purgatory before two luminous transfigurations. The Scarlatti sonatas which might have launched the evening provided the necessary contrast to Lisztian heaven and hell, starting – oh, rare, after the brilliantly controlled rodomontade – with two-part invention. But even these merged into another funeral song, Sudbin’s transcription of the Requiem Lacrymosa in the middle of composing which Mozart went off to bed and never got up: a canny complement to Liszt’s arrangement of the far more tranquil Ave verum corpus.

Strapping on wings like Icarus, Sudbin remained unburnt by the sun in Debussy’s L’Isle joyeuse and Scriabin’s Fifth Piano Sonata - again, a work he'd played in January, but not with quite this luminescence. The dance-rhythms on the road to transcendence were illuminated like all else, Scriabin’s charge into the ether breathtaking but not, as usual, exhausting. His famous early Etude, Op 2 No. 1, was the first, anchoring encore, Rachmaninov’s improvisatory-feeling spiritual glow in the G major Prelude Op 32 No 5 the second. I’d have been happy to leave it there at heaven’s gate. But no, Sudbin had to give us his demented transcription of Chopin’s so-called Minute Waltz, a golden sledgehammer used to crack a delicate, jeweled Fabergé nut. But since it was a third, generous extra, I’m not going to poop on a great party-piece. I should add that Sudbin writes all his own notes, and beautifully, bringing an insight those of us who do it as a day job and aren't, to put it mildly, up to Liszt or Scriabin's sonatas could never hope to achieve.

Strapping on wings like Icarus, Sudbin remained unburnt by the sun in Debussy’s 'L’Isle joyeuse' and Scriabin’s Fifth Piano Sonata

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Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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