YEVGENY SUDBIN REVIEW

NORMAN STINCHCOMBE SHARES THE PAIN OF PIANIST YEVGENY SUDBIN AT THE LOW TURNOUT FOR HIS BIRMINGHAM TOWN HALL RECITAL

Yevgeny Sudbin at the Birmingham Town Hall ***

Perhaps it was the embarrassingly small audience which made this recital a rather muted affair. Sudbin tried hard to hide his disappointment at the empty rows but, the final item completed, made a swift exit without offering an encore. He began with two quirky Domenico Scarlatti sonatas. In Sudbin's hands the pensive Sonata in F minor peered forward into the era of romanticism – without any hint of being manipulated – while the Sonata in G Major's perpetual energy and humorous scampering was clearly conveyed. In Scriabin's Sonata No 5 Sudbin captured the composer's potent mixture of eroticism and mysticism; the music emerging from a mysterious bass rumble, the incense-swathed chords and explosive triple forte finish all in place. His own arrangement of Saint-Saens Danse Macabre was impressive with its sinister counterpoint and sudden vanishing act.

Surely Beethoven's tongue was firmly in his cheek when he named his Op.26 set of six as Bagatelles. They're certainly short but are really musical epics compressed into two and three minutes, as dense as white dwarf stars or Webern's orchestral pieces. I'm sure Sudbin sees that but, if so, he didn't convey it. The opening Andante con moto piece is Beethoven thinking out loud, its written-in hesitations and quasi-extemporizations are the creative process in sound. Alfred Brendel made its wonder, magic and crazy insouciance vividly present – Sudbin got all the notes but the rest just slipped though his fingers. Chopin's Ballade No 4 is similarly a world-in-twelve-minutes but Sudbin's performance was exquisite but decidedly small-scale.

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