Sonata in F sharp, Op.78
Fantasy in C, Op.17
Sonata-Reminiscenza in A minor, Op.38
Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op.42
Piano Sonata No.3 in A minor, Op.28
Igor Tchetuev (piano)
Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter
Reviewed: 23 March, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
This was very much a recital in two parts. The first presented early 19th-century German tradition in which Igor Tchetuev seemed no more than dutiful; the second displayed early 20th-century music from Russia, which found Tchetuev decidedly more effective.
The brief Beethoven sonata disappointed. After a rather uncertain and muddied slow introduction, we swung into ardent melody. To signify that the mood was tender, Tchetuev kept his foot on the sustaining pedal, reducing his volume slightly. The resulting sound was rather blurred and hardly beguiling. When this theme returned, non-pedalled, it made its mark as a jaunty tune. Some of the phrasing was fussy – another attempt, I wondered, to render Beethoven more as ‘interestingly’ Romantic. Overall, and in the second movement particularly, the tempos were speedy, but not urgent. There was also a lack of dynamism.
The Schumann – a longer piece, in effect a three-movement sonata of sorts – fared rather better. It, too, was treated as a Romantic effusion – suitably, this time. Tchetuev purveyed Schumann’s young-man’s liveliness with some conviction. His pedalling practice made more sense – after a burst of ardour was over, he left us a lingering bloom of sound. Overall, the Fantasy came over more as representing the Romantic Movement rather than Robert Schumann. Tchetuev was less successful, for example, at conveying Schumann’s delicacy and wistful quality.
Tchetuev certainly found himself in the Medtner. This was an assured performance by any standard. Tchetuev had the measure of the piece. He appeared relaxed. Sonata-Reminiscenza has sweep and form and made absolute, ravishing sense, derived from alternating soft, lyrical melody and louder, impassioned swelling and then subsiding. (This is not always the case – often Medtner can sound diffuse and prolix.) Tchetuev’s performance, played with conviction and ardour, had full Romantic ebb and flow.
Even more, in the Rachmaninov, Tchetuev showed his mettle. This was a magnificent, powerful demonstration of a masterpiece. The fertility of Rachmaninov’s musical imagination provided contrasted mood, subtlety and style, classical Variations jostling with romantic musings, the power of Russian Orthodox chant followed by wistful introspection, melancholia and extroverted, rhythms.
These two pieces showed that Tchetuev is a pianist of stature and with range of sensibility. He made a creditable showing in the Prokofiev, too. This sonata is short and explosive, crashing and pounding with energy – the earliest Russian piece in the programme (1917) and the most modern and unrelenting in style. Within Russian music, Tchetuev’s range and excellence is something to praise.