Tuesday, 2 March 2010

KONSTANTIN SHAMRAY Piano Recital / Review

NUS Centre for the Arts Theatre
Sunday (28 February 2010, 8 pm)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 3 March 2010.

There has been a longstanding tradition since the early 1980s that the first prizewinner of the Sydney International Piano Competition gets to perform a concert in Singapore. The National University of Singapore’s ExxonMobil Campus Concert series hosted its most recent winner from 2008, the Russian Konstantin Shamray, a sterling testament to the competition’s lofty standards.

In a highly ambitious recital programme that harked back to those by the late great Russian masters of Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels, Shamray simply shone. Bach’s Partita No.4 in D major was distinguished by crystal-clear articulation, as if plucked from a harpsichord but burnished with the piano’s rich sonority. Its seven movements came alive with a palpable crispness, with its dances brimming with verve and vitality.

Shamray takes a bow.
Then came the epic vision of Beethoven’s final sonata, No.32 in C minor (Op.111). Shamray opened fearlessly with massive chords and octaves, portraying gravitas and tragedy on a grand scale. Never treating its cascading runs as mere exercise, his was a thinking artist’s response to the composer’s overarching angst and despair.

The second (and final) movement’s chorale and variations was an encyclopaedic study in extremes, laying bare Beethoven’s innovations and peeks into the future, one filled with stark dissonances, unapologetic trills and jazzy syncopations. The sense of timelessness was pervasive, completing a rewarding journey from turmoil to ultimate serenity.

A portrait of concentration.
A short set of Scriabin pieces, a Nocturne (Op.5 No.1), two Préludes (Op.27) and the elegant Waltz in A flat major (Op.38), provided a Chopinesque interlude before the final big work, Prokofiev’s Eighth Sonata in B flat major (Op.84). Arguably the greatest of the Russian’s nine sonatas, its longeurs and unsettling mix of lyricism with violence fell well within Shamray’s spidery fingers.

His control was unerring, as was judgment of the music’s wide-ranging and often awkward dynamics. The first movement rumbled with disquiet, balanced by the second movement’s bittersweet minuet-like postures. The machine-gun relentlessness of the whirlwind finale was a marvel to behold, with velocity and volume ratcheted to almost insupportable ends.

Two encores by Tchaikovsky – Meditation and Polonaise (from the 18 Morceaux Op.72) - was the well-deserved balm, in turn rewarded by a chorus of cheers. This Russian has truly come, and conquered he did.

Concert photos by NUS Centre for the Arts.


Cadfael said...

Hello Dr Liang,
I am sure you must have enjoyed Konstantin Shamray's recital. Fortunately, our Boonah Cultural Centre in S/east Queensland booked "the winner" of the 2008 Syd International well in advance.

Konstantin gave a breathtaking performance, bringing gasps of delighted surprise from all of us.

My husband and I were ushering in the Centre that night and had the please of meeting him.

He is utterly charming, modest and was totally patient with the audience who crowded around him after the concert. He spent some time with a couple of small girls who are piano students here in town before being pounced on by some teenage girls! (He's probably used to that by now - but I have to report that the grannies mobbed him as well :)

We were so privileged to hear him and will have to be content with probably never being able to book him again. But it is wonderful to see how well his career is progressing.

Good luck to him, he deserves his success!

BTW,you are well-blessed with a dog and 14 cats :) We have 2 geriatric cats and 6 pet fancy rats!

Diana Hockley
Qld Australia

Chang Tou Liang said...

Thanks for writing, Diana! I've posted my review which was published in the local newspaper. I think Singaporeans were as awed and charmed as Queenslanders. Shamray is a massive talent, and I hope he will go far.