21 March, 2009

Concert Review: Yevgeny Sudbin

Concert Review: Yevgeny Sudbin

March 14, 2009
Washington Irving High School

Sudbin's Official Site

I was delighted to find out last minute that there was a recital by this new Russian star. Fortunately for me, non-subscription tickets for this was not sold until 2 hrs before curtain time. This is because tickets are $10 and $12. Yes, you read it right. If I am in NYC all-year I'd subscribe!

First a little introduction. Click here for this worthwhile "People's Symphony Concert" series at the Washington Irving High School. Particularly check out "history", since the series was created "to bring the best music to students and workers at minimum prices". Sounds a little Marxist? You bet, at the start of the century.

Washington Irving High School was built in the 1800's and it doesn't look even like a school. While the exterior is great, it's the interior of the concert hall that fascinates! See pics on top. It's about 2/3 the size of HK's City Hall, I'd say, and the lack of restoration gives it an old-world feeling. Doesn't this remind you of a lesser Moscow Concert Hall? I wonder whether that old organ works or not. The seats are wooden and many are in disrepair. DON'T FORGET TO CLICK ON THE PICS ABOVE TO ENLARGE!

The audience are mostly senior citizens, rather noisy on this occasion, even raising the eyebrow of Sudbin occasionally. Nonetheless, I felt this was a wholly appropriate place for a Russian artist to appear in. :-)

The acoustics of the hall is very clear, even a little bright for the Steinway. Sudbin opened with 2 Scarlatti sonatas. He conveyed the lightness, but not really the whimsy behind them, rather concentrating on rare moments of gravitas. Immediately apparent was his excellent technique: superbly clear and walking bass line allied to a smooth treble, although as with most young pianists his trills seemed perfunctory. The Haydn went rather like the Scarlatti, not quite classical enough, but not listless as the performances of Haydn and Bach by Sergio Tiempo in HK recently. Next came 4 Chopin Mazurkas, played forcefully if not entirely subtly.

Sudbin was transformed in the second-half, from a good pianist to a great one in the Russian program. 2 "Fairy Tales" of Medtner were played exquisitely, with appropriately Lisztian breath. The best was for last, the Prokofiev "War sonata" No. 7 ("Stalingrad"). Hey, wasn't that what Tiempo was supposed to play in HK before he changed everything? I am grateful that I can finally hear it, and I was not disappointed. Sudbin brought out every dynamic and coloristic facet of the score. Even when pounding bass (exceptionally clear) he did not forget to bring out the sardonic wit inherent in the treble. Rhythm was well sprung and the feeling of inexorable progress was pervasive. I enjoyed it even more than listening to Horowitz and Richter on record; that sound slike hyperbole, but it's not.

My faith in Russian musicians is once again affirmed. A great recital! I hope he comes to HK!

p.s. For another opinion, here is a blog on this concert.

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