Boris Giltburg

Piano Sonata No.32 in C minor, Op.111
Sonata No.4 in F sharp minor, Op.30
Études-tableaux, Op 39 – No.7 in C minor & No.1 in C minor
Carnaval, Op.9

Boris Giltburg (piano)

Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter

Reviewed: 12 November, 2008
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

Boris Giltburg. Photograph: Eric RichmondBoris Giltburg, aged 24, was born in Moscow and, essentially, hails from Tel Aviv. He is already a pianist of spectacular gifts and training, with an enviable experience of debuts over Europe, the Americas and in Israel.

The choice of opening item, Beethoven’s ultimate piano sonata, suggested presumption – proved quickly to be an unfair judgement. Technically, Giltburg clearly found the work accessible. Interpretatively, he fell somewhat short. I came to this concert fresh in the memory of an octogenarian, Paul Badura-Skoda, performing the same work inimitably and indelibly at the Wigmore Hall on 1 June. It would be easy to dub Giltburg’s performance a young man’s version – and, patronisingly, recommend further, deepening experience. What won me over was my growing respect for Giltburg working sincerely to come to terms with this masterpiece, evidencing respect for its greatness (without being awe-struck) and paying meticulous attention to the quirks and oddities that constitute the essence of Beethoven’s lone journey to the heights. I felt certain that as the years pass, Giltburg’s interpretation will come to match the best.

Scriabin’s Fourth Sonata failed to catch my attention. There was a plethora of notes. I was not sure what they were all doing there. Giltburg did not assist me in my dilemma. I missed some guidance, of the kind he had just provided in the Beethoven.

The Rachmaninov was a different matter altogether. Giltburg’s playing was superb. His understanding of Rachmaninov’s patrician sensibility and dark strength was riveting and authoritative.

Carnaval was outstanding. Only rarely is its glittering, panoramic scope so clearly and so arrestingly presented. Giltburg’s nimble, capricious fingers delighted and astonished the variety and virtuosity of Schumann’s inspiration: human, figurative and eccentric, impish or sinister, vulnerable or brash.

There were two encores: Fritz Kreisler’s Liebeslied courtesy of Rachmaninov and another Études-tableau; the latter really struck home!

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