Sasha Grynyuk at St Mary’s
Tuesday July 23rd 2.00 pm
Sasha Grynyuk (piano)
Beethoven: Piano sonata in F minor Op 2 no 1
Ravel: Valses Nobles and SentimentalesRachmaninov: 5 Preludes (Op 32 nos 5,9,10,12,13)
Born in Kyiv- Ukraine, Sasha Grynyuk studied at the National Music Academy of Ukraine and later at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London with Ronan O’Hora. After graduation he also benefited from artistic guidance of such great musicians as Alfred Brendel and Murray Perahia.
Sasha was described by legendary Charles Rosen as “an impressive artist with remarkable, unfailing musicality always moving with the most natural, electrifying, and satisfying interpretations”. He regularly performs in most renowned concert halls throughout Europe, South and North America, Far East and Asia including Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Salle Cortot, Bridgewater Hall, Barbican Hall, Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall. Winner of over ten International competitions, prizes and awards Sasha was chosen as a Rising Star for BBC Music Magazine and International Piano Magazine. His recent successes also include 1st prizes of Rio de Janeiro International Piano Competition, Grieg International Piano Competition and Guildhall School’s most prestigious award – the Gold Medal – previously won by such artists as Jacqueline Du Pre and Bryn Terfel.
I imagine we will have a lot of Beethoven for his 250th anniversary year in 2020.
He was born in Bonn in December 1770 and the world is waiting to celebrate.
It was therefore fitting that the last pianist in Hugh Mather’s series should play the very first of Beethoven’s 32 Sonatas as a foretaste of wonderful things to come.
Sasha has been studying all 32 Sonatas over the past year with Noretta Conci Leech,the renowned pianist and pedagogue who was for many years the assistant of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli.
Well into her eighties she has been on a voyage of discovery with Sasha with a new Beethoven Sonata every week!
Founder of the Keyboard Charitable Trust together with her husband John ,for many years they have been helping and encouraging young musicians to find their way at the beginning of a career in music.
It is a fundamental principle of the KCT that musical values are the only ones to be nurtured and encouraged.
Much as Guido Agosti would share his musical bible with a world that travelled to Siena each summer to be inspired and reminded that performers are only a medium through which the composers wishes should flow directly.
And so it was today with a performance of great simplicity and delicacy but allied to a forward movement that gave great rhythmic urgency and an undercurrent on which Beethoven’s earliest ideas could emerge.
A very sparse use of the sustaining pedal gave great clarity and was particularly noticeable in the syncopations of the first movement development.
The seemingly innocent little turn appearing over the whole keyboard until it was transformed again into the main upward scale motif.
(I think it was Delius that described Bach as “knotty twine” and Beethoven as “scales and arpeggios!” I am not sure what they would have made of his sound world!)
In the Adagio it was the wonderfully pure cantabile phrased so beautifully that when the sustaining pedal was added it was only to create a special magical sound.
A superb sense of balance too with the crossing hands where each note was so delicately placed.
There was a wonderful sense of orchestral colour with the violas and cellos answered by the violin and flute.
The Menuet was delicate and playful with a middle section of almost Schumannesque contrast ( I am thinking of Kinderscenen op 15).
The Trio crept in almost unnoticed with a beautiful legato that contrasted so well with the Haydnesque Menuet.
The Prestissimo was played with less of the frenzy that I remember in Serkin’s performance in London many years ago.It was more pastoral and the slight relaxing of tension allowed the beautiful melodic line to sing out so beautifully.
Always with the rumbling undercurrent but it was more at peace than at war!
Very noticeable too were the full rich chords where every note was given its true orchestral value.
The Valses Nobles e Sentimentales by Ravel was a refreshing way of continuing the same rhythmic urgency of early Beethoven but with the pungent jazz and oriental sounds that are of a completely different world.
They are a beautiful collection of 8 waltzes ending in a magical epilogue so reminiscent of Schumann’s Davidsbundler dances.
With it’s nostalgic looking back over the previous waltzes.Shimmering sounds and long pedals adding magical kaleidoscopic sounds to the almost Tombeau de Couperin type clarity with which they had been presented in the previous seven waltzes.
Rubinstein used to tell the story of the first performance that he gave in Spain and the cat calls and noises with which it was greeted by an unsuspecting public in the early 1920’s.
Rubinstein was so incensed that he played them again as an encore at the end of the recital!
A cause celebre indeed.
It was infact the grandiose nobility of the 7th waltz that suited Rubinstein so well.
Sasha today too threw caution to the wind as he played with just the same abandon that makes the middle section such a contrast with it’s moving plasma of sounds.
It was a remarkable performance of a piece that can only work in the hands of a true musician ….and I might add magician!
From the pungent dissonant opening chords dissolving into almost decadant jazz type idioms.
The beautiful liquid sounds of the second waltz were played with such a rich unsentimental cantabile in which all Ravel’s magic sounds were allowed to weave.
The impish good humour of the third waltz with the very crystal clear sound world of his Tombeau de Couperin.
The Rhapsodic nonchalance of the fourth with an almost Poulenc like sense of suave french character.
Each piece was so beautifully characterised but always with the lilt of the waltz as it’s motor.
Five Rachmaninov Preludes op 32 were played with all the sumptuous sounds and Russian nostalgia of one of the most renowned of composer pianists of his time.
Perlemuter used to tell me that this gaunt looking man would appear on stage looking like he had just swallowed a knife and proceed to produce the most romantic of sounds that he had ever heard.
The beautiful cantabile sound in the G major Prelude n.5 was supported by a superbly rich accompaniment with an aristocratic sense of timing that gave such spaciousness and poignancy to these heartrending melodies.
The B minor Prelude n.10 where I remember Moiseiwitch in a final BBC television programme describing his great friend Rachmaninov being surprised when he had described this piece as the Homecoming or Return ( Rachmaninoff in fact was inspired by Arnold Böcklin‘s painting “Die Heimkehr” (“The Homecoming” or “The Return”).It is the second work of Rachmaninov’s to be inspired by one of Böcklin’s paintings; the other being Isle of the Dead.
Rachmaninov also confessed to Moiseiwitsch that this was his personal favorite among his preludes.
A full robust musical line that allowed space for an infinite variety of tonal colours.
The long central build up was masterly controlled with Sasha listening so intently to the melodic line whilst creating the most sumptuous of accompaniments.
The whistful coda like a flock of birds disappearing into the distance.
The final farewell cry was heartrending.
The prelude in G sharp minor seemed to emerge from this final chord with the same sense of flow and flight dissolving so magically into the absolute monumental nobility and grandeur of the final D flat Prelude.
Here even Sasha seemed to be sculpting the sounds as a great conductor would do with his orchestra creating wonderful sonorous sounds that brought this last recital before the summer break to a magnificent end.