Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Ilya Rashkovskiy at Tedd's, Singapore

Singapore, 2 December 2008
Ilya Rashkovskiy, winner of the 2005 Kong Kong International Piano Competition, performed a full-length recital at the Scotts Road apartment of esteemed American pianist Tedd Joselson, now a Singapore permanent resident. The likes of Manny Ax, Fima Bronfman and Murray have been recent guests of Tedd’s, playing on his Yamaha grand piano and generally entertaining themselves. Oh to be a fly on the wall…

Ilya, dressed in full concert attire, was his usual shy and modest self, almost apologetic in his demeanour. Once on the keyboard, he is transformed. His opening Bach Prelude and Fugue (F sharp minor) was clear-headed and unmannered, with the ensuing fugue delighting in its counterpoint. Next came Chopin’s “Octave” Étude in B minor (Op.25 No.11) which raised a storm on a none-too-subtle piano which tended to sound harsh and clattery. The lyrical central section in the major key however sang with mellow tenderness.

An audience of almost 40 caught Ilya in recital.

Having warmed up, Ilya began on his “big pieces”, beginning with Schumann’s Etudes symphoniques (Op.13). He played only the “usual” variations, including repeats where he saw fit. It was an enthralling performance because he displayed an acute understanding of the broad view of the work, which developed arch-like through its short movements. Few details were missed and his fingerwork was close to perfection. The penultimate G sharp minor variation, with its intertwining inner voices, was particularly beautifully shaped, leading to its barnstorming finale.

With scarcely a pause for breath, he launched himself into Brahms’ Paganini Variations (Op.35). A more technical piece than the Schumann, there was a fear of sound and fury signifying little. However Rashkovskiy alternated comfortably between outright virtuosity, which he delivered in spadesful, and letting the quieter variations simmer and sing. The “music box” variation was very pretty but he let the sinuous elaborations of the following number get the better of him; this resulted in a momentary lapse, but he recovered as if nothing happened. Variation 14 was not completed as he went directly into Variation 1 of Book Two, as some have done in the past. I would have much preferred to have heard that glorious fugal variation intact; a case of musicus interruptus which could have been avoided. Needless to say, the more treacherous Book Two went swimmingly, with many jaw-dropping passages hurdled with seemingly amazing ease.

Two Rachmaninov players meet:
Ilya with Tedd Joselson

The evening’s host Tedd Joselson was pleased to introduce Ilya’s third big piece, Rachmaninov’s Second Sonata (Op.36), revealing his lineage to the composer. “Horowitz was Rachmaninov’s favourite student, while I was Horowitz’s favourite student,” he announced to the captive audience of about 40 people. Rashkovskiy was not overawed as he went headlong into the work’s massive crashing chords and pealing bells. He played the shorter 1931 version, and did he raise the roof with its Romantic rhetoric. More importantly, the contrasts between loud and soft were well established, which made this competition favourite sound less of a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am affair in Ilya’s hands. The big tune of the slow movement and the ensuing coruscating cadenza were particularly impressive.

Needing to catch a midnight flight to Paris (where he plays three recitals at the Salle Cortot), Rashkovskiy offered one encore, more barnstorming in Rachmaninov’s Prélude in C minor (Op.23 No.7).

By the way, Ilya has just gotten married to his fiancée Kayo. Congratulations!

1 comment:

Chang Tou Liang said...

Ilya Rashkovskiy garnered 3rd place at the Prix Animato Piano Competition in Paris, which ran from 6-9 December.

First prize went to Korea's Tae Hyung Kim (a semi-finalist at the 2005 Hong Kong International Piano Competition which Ilya won), while second prize was awarded to Daniil Tsvetkov of Kazakhstan (semi-finalist at Sydney 2008).

Ilya will now compete in the preliminary auditions of the 2009 Van Cliburn Competition in Hannover from 20-24 January. The pianist that plays before him? Hong Kong's Colleen Lee!