fri 12/07/2024

Yevgeny Sudbin, World Heart Beat Embassy Gardens review - phenomenal pianism in close-up | reviews, news & interviews

Yevgeny Sudbin, World Heart Beat Embassy Gardens review - phenomenal pianism in close-up

Yevgeny Sudbin, World Heart Beat Embassy Gardens review - phenomenal pianism in close-up

A recital with contrast and balance

Yevgeny SudbinPeter Rigaud

It was a rare treat to hear Yevgeny Sudbin’s piano artistry quite so close up. World Heart Beat Embassy Gardens is a new venue, in fact just in the process of being born (more about the venue lower down). In the room, with its seated capacity of just 120 on two levels, the sound is so clear and immediate, you could sometimes almost be inside the piano.

And that proximity suits Sudbin’s way, which is to reveal every intricacy of the works he plays, to allow absolutely everything to be heard. His technical command is unbelievable, particularly as witnessed from within a few feet. I noted that there were a good number of children there; all were impeccably behaved, proof that the effect of being right there up front to hear playing of this quality and depth is very powerful indeed.

In the past decade since this review, Sudbin has kept going to develop his careful art of constructing recitals contrasting different periods of music, as pioneered by Horowitz. And he has also been thinking about it, a lot: the detailed and often provocative six-page programme note about the works in last night’s programme, and also on the links between them, was researched, written and meticulously thought through... all by Sudbin himself. That sense of bringing a logic to a programme has consequences, namely that the listener is taken on a specific journey on the evening. And somehow never short-changed. Sudbin has an astonishing way of balancing things up, of making the whole recital being much bigger than the sum of its parts.

That was certainly true of the contrast and balance he brought between the opening two works. When he writes about Haydn’s B minor Sonata, one of the few sonatas which Sviatoslav Richter also played in his day, Sudbin mentions in his note a “frenzy and despair” which is perhaps the rarest thing of all in Haydn's music. And yet I couldn’t help noticing that Sudbin's way with this work is make it airy and infinitely delicate, with a particularly appealing way of holding back and allowing the music to breathe, hovering over a delicate arabesque at the end of a phrase, letting it hang in the air for a moment, loving it, enjoying it. Then, by contrast, Sudbin clearly wanted Chopin’s Ballade No. 3 to sound darker, more laden with foreboding than, say, the version which he recorded in around 2010. And yet, in its context in the recital, it was the kind of reading which felt totally right. Similarly, in the last programmed piece, Ravel’s "Scarbo" from Gaspard de la Nuit, Sudbin has written in his note “even the pauses are scary” and those moments when there might have been momentary release through delighting in a fragment melody were eschewed. But that was resolved more or less straight away by the pair of encores, both sonatas by Scarlatti, Kk466 in F minor and Kk455 in G major, which provided the complete contrast, the release, the balance which was needed. 

The centrepiece was Scriabin’s Fifth Sonata. In his programme essay, Sudbin is fascinating on the subject of quite how many varying moods a single Scriabin chord can evoke in different contexts. In his playing, the way in which Sudbin opens up the listener to Scriabin’s world is surely as persuasive as that of any pianist of our time.

More on the venue (pictured above by Paul Tanner): it’s in Vauxhall, just a couple of minutes’ walk from the new Nine Elms Northern Line station. It also serves as a gig venue for up to 200, and as a resource for performance and recording for the music education charity which runs the space. This was an early event in the new hall, mainly for supporters of the charity. World Heart Beat Embassy Gardens might never be a name that trips off the tongue easily, and Londoners can be so sniffy about the feel of new spaces: I can’t help wanting to wish it well. After all, it took several years and hundreds of broadly-programmed events for Kings Place to shrug off its doubters, and WHBEG hasn’t even begun on that journey. Good luck!

Sudbin opens up the listener to Scriabin’s world


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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