Play Piano Play (10 Übungsstucke für Yuko)
Five Short Pieces for Piano
Two Pieces for Piano
So You Want to Write a Fugue? [Arrangement for piano by Sasha Grynyuk]
Sasha Grynyuk (piano)
Recorded November 2011 in Studio I Musicanti, Rome
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: September 2012
CD No: PIANO CLASSICS PCL0043
Duration: 55 minutes
Sasha Grynyuk has chosen a wacky first recording, music by pianist giants, the Austrian Friedrich Gulda (1930-2000) and the Canadian Glenn Gould (1932-1982). Both have left important legacies and, to say the least, were characters.
A jazzy opening track, the first of 21, introduces Grynyuk (the recent winner, on 8 September 2012, of the Edvard Grieg Piano Competition), who is clearly having a ball. How he enjoys the music, and how well he has been recorded, too, with presence, clarity and truthfulness. And so the night-club mood continues in Friedrich Gulda’s Play Piano Play, the whole set giving much enjoyment and opening out to cover numerous moods (from dark to witty) but without losing sight of Gulda’s natural affinity with the jazz world, which he embraced as keenly as he did the classical one; he was especially noted for his Beethoven concertos and sonatas. Throughout, Grynyuk is as sympathetic as he is virtuosic as he is pleasure-sharing.
There is a distinct contrast with the music of Glenn Gould. He has the remaining 22 minutes of the disc. The Piano Sonata of 1948 is quirky, leaning more to Schoenberg and Berg than to Hindemith, although the latter is a presence, with a first movement that is marked “Quiet and relaxed, but alert” and which rises to fever pitch (rather like Berg’s Piano Sonata). It’s followed by “Second section, dreamlike”, a reflective movement worthy of Messiaen, and finally “Canon at 5-th”, a dry piece of academicism that proves an open-ended and unsatisfying conclusion. Five Short Pieces (1950), each plays for under a minute, would pass as Schoenberg at his twelve-note strictest. The Two Pieces (1951/2) are just as miniature and similarly veined; not without attraction but tending to be of interest because of their author, offering an extension of our knowledge of a very individual thinker. As for the fugal ending to the disc, it’s ‘Back to Bach’ in this arrangement by Grynyuk, with references to music by Johann Sebastian. If the working out is impressive, the six minutes are a bit of haul, and slightly falling off the edge, in a Charles Ives moment, towards the end.
Make no mistake, Sasha Grynyuk is a pianist and musician of considerable talent (who has had “occasional lessons” with Alfred Brendel and Murray Perahia), and one looks forward to hearing him in, say, Beethoven and Brahms. That he has chosen an adventurous programme here is to his credit, but his booklet note is on the eccentric side, which in context is appropriate … but with very little on the music itself, even though his words cover ten pages.
I for one would have liked more about the origins of So You Want to Write a Fugue? and when Gulda wrote his collection and why. Furthermore Piano Classics’ presentation is short of Grynyuk’s biography and dates for Gould and Gulda, things like that, and also lacks its website address! More attention to detail, please, and less striving to be different when the basics are not first considered: tradition has its place! And to Mr Grynyuk, I did “listen” and what my ears, brain and heart told me you have just read.
Presentational doubts aside, artistically this is an enterprising and successful release, Sasha Grynyuk a force to be reckoned with.