Temirzhan Yerzhanov at Wigmore Hall [Schumann & Prokofiev]

Bunte Blätter, Op.99 [selection]
Piano Sonata No.1 in F sharp minor, Op.11
Visions fugitives, Op.22
Piano Sonata No.2 in D minor, Op.14

Temirzhan Yerzhanov (piano)

Reviewed by: Rob Pennock

Reviewed: 24 May, 2009
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Temirzhan Yerzhanov. Photograph: Scott CampbellLondon-based Temirzhan Yerzhanov was born in Kazakhstan and is the first pianist from that country to make an international name for himself, winning First Prize at the 1993 Robert Schumann Competition. To his credit he champions contemporary music, plays chamber music and accompanies singers. This recital was his London debut and you would have thought that he would have wanted to make a good impression, yet the programme-notes were decidedly amateur, in broken English.

The recital started with eight of Schumann’s Bunte Blätter. The slower pieces were suitably dreamy, with the right-hand very expressive in final piece. But, the use of the sustaining and loudness pedals was excessive, a mark of underestimating the quality of the acoustic in this Hall. This lead to disaster in the Sonata. Great Schumann-players delineate the interlocking and beautifully-subtle rhythmic and melodic lines and patterns, and portray – however briefly – every mood change. Unfortunately, Yerzhanov just powered his way through the music, which was too loud and devoid of finesse. The massive climax to the first movement development was little more than noise and the slow movement lacked any grace and rarely fell below forte. The scherzo was laboured whilst the finale was pounded.

After the interval came a rare complete performance of Prokofiev’s Visions fugitives. Yerzhanov’s pianism was rather more subtle, and, despite some lapses, he caught most of the moods of the brief and beguiling sections. Such subtlety completely disappeared in Sonata No.2, where the opening movement’s first subject lacked clarity and the rhythm dragged. The scherzo was fast and flabby and the Andante was little more than an exercise in soulless note-spinning. According to the programme note, “the rapid finale (Vivace), driven ever forward by its opening rhythm, features a playful first theme and almost jazzy alternate one.” From Yerzhanov, it was a crude, triple-forte stampede, which for some bizarre reason brought the house down.

There were two encores, the first of which bore a passing resemblance to a Chopin Norturne.

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