Monday, 13 October 2008

Review of Ilya Rashkovskiy's Piano Recital in Singapore

Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Auditorium
Monday (3 December 2007)

This review of the Singapore début of Ilya Rashkovskiy, 1st prizewinner of the 1st Hong Kong International Piano Competition in 2005, appeared on the pages of The Straits Times on 8 December 2007.

One prize-winning Russian pianist performing in Singapore is a boon, and to have two such recitals within a week is positive luxury. Ilya Rashkovskiy proved that he and Alexander Kobrin, the compatriot who preceded him, were no two peas from the same pod. While Kobrin was reserved and almost sullen, Rashkovskiy radiated a simple boyish charm. But both had keyboard techniques to lose an arm and leg for.

"Inspired By Dance" was Rashkovskiy's waltz-themed recital, and one wondered whether he could stay the course of its offerings in three-quarter time. Any doubts were immediately dispelled with the selection of seven Waltzes by Chopin, drawing a wide range of colours and moods, from exuberance through tragedy to outright brilliance.

From within this, even the "Minute " Waltz, beloved of amateurs but almost embarrassing for professionals to programme, found a devoted and sympathetic champion. The B minor Waltz (Op.69 No.2) was crafted with such delicacy and beauty that any resistance proved futile. This was mirrored by the Russian Scriabin's only Waltz in A flat major (Op.38), which swung from nostalgia to ecstacy, and finally introspection.

Rashkovskiy wasted little time in building up Ravel's La Valse into a storm of seismic proportions, and there were measures where the music threatened to jump off its tracks. Fortunately a cool head prevailed, balancing precariously between the thrill of terminal velocity and the threat of outright collapse.

The same composer's Valses nobles et sentimentales were less successful, with hesitant moments and spilt notes aplenty shared between its eight short movements. However the beauty of tone and myriad shades coaxed from the impeccably voiced Steinway grand proved to be the saving grace.

For the more visceral challenges of the Schubert-Liszt Valse-Caprice No. 6 and Liszt Mephisto Waltz No.l, Rashkovskiy resisted the temptation to showboat a la Horowitz or Lang Lang. The results were still highly satisfying, with the feather-light touches in the "love music" of the latter warhorse proving more persuasive that its obligatory stampeding octaves.

One encore, a subtly and lovingly shaded Chopin Prelude, served to fuel one thought: While the Far East has become the mass producer of fine performers, Russia still has the lion's share of music's aristocrats.

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