Igor Tchetuev

Sonata in B flat, K333
Sonata in E flat, Op.81a (Les Adieux)
Gaspard de la nuit
Three movements from Petrushka

Igor Tchetuev (piano)

Reviewed by: Janet Notenoquah

Reviewed: 14 June, 2005
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

This programme was not only colossal in terms of pianistic demands but required an amazing amount of musical focus and maturity and highlighted Igor Tchetuev’s technical wizardry and vision of structural form, each work having three movements exploring the architectural design and relationships between movements and even between the works themselves.

Tchetuev has won various prizes at prestigious competitions including 4th Prize at the Leeds Competition (2003). This recital’s first work, Mozart’s B flat sonata, projects a range of moods from a carefree gallant style to that of a concerto-like conclusion. Tchetuev began with simplicity, eloquence and confidence. The phrasing was subtle and stylish, if a bit too much when the music required a more dramatic and expressive demeanour. This was mainly due to Tchetuev focusing on the melody and leaving the accompaniment or inner lines as secondary. Nevertheless the easiness with which he manoeuvred scale passages added the grace and flow that the music demanded. His lightness of touch lent itself to the flowery melodic decorations of the second movement; the extraordinary palette of piano dynamics with which Tchetuev indulged were sublime, and, in the finale, Tchetuev captured the playfulness of the music and managed the technical demands of the solo-tutti contrasts and the cadenza in a calm and poised manner.

The stylistic differences of the Mozart and the succeeding Beethoven were not obvious: the opening, which still echoed the carefree quality of the Mozart, would have benefited from a greater depth of sound. Once into the Allegro, Tchetuev’s technical abilities helped liven things up, even if he continued to highlight the top line and lose some important contrapuntal aspects. The short middle movement leads into the joyous flourish that heralds the finale. Again the excessive use of piano dynamics meant that this connection was disjointed. The soaring scales and sonorous arpeggios that dominate the majority of the finale were very well integrated.

Gaspard de la nuit is a true challenge to any pianist and is based on three poems by Aloysius Bertrand introduced to Ravel by his friend Ricardo Viñes. Tchetuev went for extreme clarity in ‘Ondine’ in bringing out the left-hand melody; more credible had it been infused with the resonant atmosphere of the right-hand. The few minor problems with the right-hand demisemiquavers meant that such clarity was not always effective. Tchetuev found his feet, though, and put across the grand architecture of the movement. The opening notes that act as the sound of bells in ‘Le gibet’ were distant and haunting. Tchetuev managed to keep the stillness of the tempo with its repetitious B flat amidst the chordal structure that surrounds the weariness of the ever-resounding bell motif; he demonstrated his diverse palette of sonorities and range of dynamics whilst maintaining a beautiful tone.‘Scarbo’, a movement that greatly reflects the influence of Liszt, was very well performed. The overt pianissimo of the first three notes endorsed the comments Ravel made to his student Miss Fauré – “do not play too loud”. Tchetuev’s remarkable skill in the crescendo passages and his depth of sound added to the excitement of the climactic moments. He pulled out all the stops in this physically demanding movement whilst providing a controlled and intelligent interpretation.

Three movements from the ballet Petrushka, transcribed by Stravinsky himself in 1921 for Artur Rubinstein, gathered Tchetuev his remaining energy for this diabolical transcription of the orchestral work. It was relentless yet Tchetuev seemed impervious to the physical exertion. Here he was totally in his element and enjoyed every moment: an opportunity for Tchetuev to reveal his great sense of showmanship and pianistic bravura.

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