Rustem Hayroudinoff (piano) – 27th January

Prelude, fugue and variation, Op.18
Etudes symphoniques, Op.13
Gaspard de la nuit
Theatre Music
Etude-tableau in E flat minor, Op.39/5
Etude-tableau in C minor, Op.39/1
Prelude in G, Op.32/5

Rustem Hayroudinoff (piano)

Reviewed by: Ying Chang

Reviewed: 27 January, 2002
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Rustem Hayroudinoff is a very serious young man; he played a very serious, enormously challenging and difficult programme. Either Schumann or Ravel might have formed the centrepiece of his recital. Hayroudinoff crammed his shop window so as not to leave any aspect of his art neglected. As a virtuoso, he was very successful, yet a surfeit of dazzle and concentration became indigestible: in piano recitals too, less is more.

In the simplicity of Franck’s Prelude, and in his ability to reveal complex part-writing carefully and produce colour, Hayroudinoff displayed many of his virtues – a sound technique, an interest in imitating the sound-worlds of other instruments and ability to think-through a melodic line.

If there was a want of anything, it was originality, and this, sadly, was to make Hayroudinoff’s Schumann difficult listening. Technically, it was impressive – Etude IX, with its fleet, effortlessly controlled descending chords and perfectly shaped left-hand countermelody, was superb. Almost all Schumann is difficult to bring off. He was entirely transparent in exposing his intellectual and emotional weaknesses in his music. Playing him is like being the supportive friend of a tortured artist – he requires sympathetic treatment and careful advocacy. Hayroudinoff played these variations far too straight. Etude I requires wit, II poetry and III the most careful exploitation of arpeggiated filigree; under Hayroudinoff’s hands it became more and more a technical exercise. Including the posthumous variations and the full version of the finale added nothing to the interpretation.

In Gaspard, ’Ondine’ was notably successful from Hayroudinoff, not least the shimmer of piano texture (in representing water) and the otherworldly strangeness of the depicted nymph. ’Le Gibet’ and ’Scarbo’, however, did not have the level of uncanny menace and supernatural unease to match Hayroudinoff’s admirable virtuosity.

In Shostakovich, the mixture of burlesque and simplicity made it impossible for Hayroudinoff to persist with too intractable or a bullish an approach; there was more contact with the audience. Rachmaninov too easily degenerated into bombast, not fancy. If only the recital had had the wit and imagination of the very last phrase Hayroudinoff played, the end of his encore (Rachmaninov’s Prelude Op.32/12) trailing off into the air with a lightness that belied the overall complexity of its textures.

I have to mention Hayroudinoff’s wonderfully eccentric programme notes. Some discussion of where and why he decided to interpolate Schumann’s extra variations would have been welcome. The highlight was undoubtedly his reproduction of Richter’s comment that the Etudes-tableaux must be played emotionally “naked”. Here, Hayroudinoff was hoisted by his own petard. His recital was over-dressed – in the performer’s case literally; his perspiration necessitated several visits from someone to wipe the piano’s keys. Hayroudinoff relied too much on his fingers, and too little on his heart. He doesn’t need to impress any more; now he can beguile. In interview, in fleeting acquaintance, in recordings and in flashes in performance, Hayroudinoff is a man of modesty and humanity, one who feels earnestly and deeply. It is these feelings that he should share in his playing.

  • Rustem Hayroudinoff has recorded a CD of Shostakovich’s Theatre Music – CHANDOS CHAN 9907

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