Verbier Festival 2019 – Sergei Redkin plays Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev & Rachmaninov [live Medici webcast]

Dumka in C-minor, Op.59
Piano Sonata No.6 in A, Op.82
Études-tableaux, Op.39

Sergei Redkin (piano)

Reviewed by: Ateş Orga

Reviewed: 26 July, 2019
Venue: Église de Verbier-Station, Chemin de l'Eglise, 1936 Bagnes, Switzerland

St Petersburg rather than Moscow trained, the Siberian pianist and composer Sergey Redkin was joint-bronze medallist at the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition. A studious, bespectacled young man, given to neither emoting nor posturing, he’s an artist of refined finish, inventive resource, and story-telling imagination.

Sergei RedkinPhotograph: www.medici.tvIn this mid-morning recital, taking us on Russian journeys from fairy-tale to the symphonic, his pre-occupation with detail and the larger canvas was impressive. There was much to admire in his articulation, the shaped ‘orchestral’ precision of each dot and slur, the sonorous depth of tone, the clarity and poetry of voicing, melodic and chordal. In Prokofiev’s Sixth Piano Sonata – the first of his ‘War’ trilogy (notwithstanding that in 1940 the Second World conflict hadn’t yet come to the Soviet Union) – he fashioned a monumental structure, organically bound and dramatised with a creative ear and eye (he studied for several years with Alexander Mnatsakanian, one of Shostakovich’s students).

Here was a considered, paced view of the work, lyrical rather than spiky, the fast high-register passages less brittle than bloomed, the left-hand octave lines legato-fingered for maximum oiliness of connection, the motoric patterns mellow more than machined. The Finale’s Andante recall of the first movement’s opening major-thirds motif was an especially expressive moment of poised inevitability, the hell-let-loose coda a thrilling modern example of athletic pianism musically applied.

Redkin’s Tchaikovsky was about Slavic (Ukrainian) melancholy and rustic scene, the capricious inlays underlyingly thoughtful, a wistful smile behind the exuberance of dance. A Szathmáry/Schreyer landscape. Fearlessly, his Rachmaninov tackled the virtuoso high ground, big on technique and theatre yet with time to linger, to ponder long, warmly pedalled harmonies, to bring out the architectural and emotional turning points of each ‘picture’. A cultured performer, tension at a premium, he raised the stakes, leaving us wanting more.

Resisting barnstorming stunts, his encores – murmured humour – amounted to intimate slips of almost nothing. Two throwaway bagatelles by Kapustin (Opus 59/9) and Silvestrov (Opus 1/1). Harmless, gentle, quirky, and, in the case of Silvestrov, C-major 2005, starrily wondering – “the creative act … in a flash”. Exquisitely framed. Masterful playing.

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