Yevgeny Sudbin at Wigmore Hall – Scarlatti Sonatas, Beethoven Opus 111, Lacrimosa, Gaspard de la nuit

Domenico Scarlatti
Sonatas – in D minor, Kk213; in C, Kk159; in D minor, Kk9
Piano Sonata No.32 in C minor, Op.111
Mozart, arr. Sudbin
Requiem, K626 – Lacrimosa
Gaspard de la nuit

Yevgeny Sudbin (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 16 June, 2016
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Yevgeny SudbinPhotograph: Peter RigaudYevgeny Sudbin opened his Wigmore Hall recital with three choices from one of his current signature composers, Domenico Scarlatti, whose munificent output in the Sonata department (555 all told) has been occupying him awhile and with currently two releases dedicated to this Baroque repertoire on BIS. Sudbin’s affection and perception in this remarkably inventive music is self-evident, the pianist relishing Scarlatti’s ingenuity, whatever the tempo and the temper, and his soulfulness and brio cast a spell from the first note played at this concert, Kk213 a slow and ever-elaborate reverie, Kk159 rhythmically chiselled – a royal parade – and the rampaging Kk9.

From there to Beethoven’s Opus 111, his ultimate Piano Sonata, which Sudbin gave with considerable flair, the first movement launched with fiery sternness and suspenseful crescendos and which continued with panache and fierce determination, if also on the manic and hectoring side. The succeeding ‘Arietta’ (a theme and variations) never quite found heavenly serenity either side of the increasing vitality and jazziness – the ‘boogie-woogie’ section was stiff in its swinging although it’s difficult to forget how Friedrich Gulda so juicily syncopated it. Overall, Sudbin’s rough-hewn and unvarnished approach could be considered as cathartic rather than being of spiritual release.

Following which, and the interval, Sudbin’s penny-plain transcription of the ‘Lacrimosa’ from Mozart’s left-unfinished Requiem (the whole setting eventually completed by Süssmayr and others) proved an ill-fitting inclusion in its shortness and bombast. Gaspard got us somewhat back on track however, with ravishing and devilish accounts of the outer movements – respectively ‘Ondine’ and ‘Scarbo’ – and an eerie and hypnotic one of ‘Le gibet’ even if quieter dynamics would have brought greater mystery. This was pristine playing short on subtlety and seduction at times as if Sudbin wanted to demystify the music, remove its impressionism tag and be as graphic as possible if without painting pictures. ‘Scarbo’ was venomous and in many ways stunning, but this was also a pianist with his foot down and unrestrained regarding decibels; breathtaking virtuosity though.

For encores, Sudbin returned to Scarlatti, a pair of Sonatas in D-minor and further examples of this composer’s genius, a magical reading of Kk32 and a brilliant if over-attacked Kk141.

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