YEVGENY SUDBIN PLAYS RACH 2
with Orchestra of the Music Makers
Esplanade Concert Hall
Saturday (27 May 2023)
POETRY OF ECSTASY
YEVGENY SUDBIN Piano Recital
Victoria Concert Hall
Thursday (1 June 2023)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 3 June 2023 with the title "OMM shines with Elgar, Yevgeny Sudbin fares better in solo recital".
Visiting Russian pianists have over the decades made strong impressions on Singapore audiences. During the 1980s, it was veteran Aleksei Nasedkin in concerto performances with the Singapore Symphony. The nineties and noughties saw Nikolai Demidenko and Dmitri Alexeev in recitals and more concertos. Yevgeny Sudbin, from the next generation, is no stranger here, having made Rachmaninov and Scriabin concerto recordings with the national orchestra.
In commemoration of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov’s 150th birth anniversary, his very popular Second Piano Concerto was given an airing by Sudbin and the Orchestra of the Music Makers led by Chan Tze Law. Given its familiarity and having recorded it before, it was surprising to see Sudbin perform with a tablet score. A safety net, perhaps. Riding on high passion and flowing Russian juices, a potent blend of heart-on-sleeve melancholy and vulnerability, the performance was on edge throughout.
And then it happened. Sudbin’s entry after the finale’s furious fugato was unusually emphatic but a momentary lapse saw him scrambling to recover. The concerto’s exciting last pages saw a recovery and strong finish, but the copybook had somewhat been blotted. The much less frenetic encore of Scriabin’s Etude in C sharp minor (Op.2 No.1) was a soothing balm.
|Photo: Yong Junyi|
The evening’s highest lights came from the orchestra on its own. Glinka’s Ruslan And Ludmilla Overture made for a thrilling opener, bringing to mind SSO’s 2014 BBC Proms debut, but it was a rare performance of Edward Elgar’s monumental First Symphony in A flat major that stole the show.
|Photo: Yong Junyi|
Conductor Chan is a born Elgarian, one who truly understands the English composer’s direction of nobilmente (nobility) in his music. In the 50-minute long work, once described by conductor Thomas Beecham as the musical equivalent of St Pancras Station (a mighty red-bricked edifice topped with Gothic towers and turrets), sheer grandeur and pomp were brought out with neither trepidation nor apology.
Photo: Yong Junyi Photo: Ung Ruey Loon
After a respite of four days, Sudbin returned refreshed for his solo recital, reliving repertoire from his most celebrated CD recordings. Opening with Haydn’s Sonata in B minor (Hob.XV1:32), his vision of seriousness balanced with biting wit refuted any notion that the Austrian composer was dry or academic. Mastery of sonority on the modern piano, with liberal use of pedalling, may seem at odds with period instrument practice but it mattered little when the results are aurally alluring.
The best case was made for a selection of six Domenico Scarlatti sonatas, which alternated between slow and fast numbers. His freely added new harmonies and octave doublings enhanced rather than detracted from the listening experience. Although arguably the best part of the recital, piano students will, however, be advised not to follow suit in their associated board examinations.
In Romantic music, Sudbin unleashed the full gamut of keyboard colours. Chopin’s Third Ballade radiated the warmth of sunshine, while in Liszt’s Harmonies Du Soir (Evening Harmonies), the penultimate Transcendental Etude, mysteries of night were gradually revealed, finally climaxing in blazing octaves and chords. The frolicsome spirit of Debussy’s L’Isle Joyeuse (Isle Of Joy), from opening trills to the final rapturous tumble down the keyboard, was relived in a glorious display of joie de vivre.
Russian composer Alexander Scriabin’s Fifth Sonata (sometimes called Poem Of Ecstasy), while having similar orgiastic leanings, took on a more frenzied and carnal edge. In this his signature piece, Sudbin shone like a man possessed. On the strength of this, he may be said to have inherited the mantle of the late great Ukrainian pianists Vladimir Horowitz and Sviatoslav Richter.
|Photo: Ung Ruey Loon|