Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy Overture Romeo and Juliet is a piece you do not come across often in a piano recital. As the programme notes suggest, this piece was written for a full orchestra of the Romantic period “Typically some 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 4 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, Tuba, 2 Percussionists, Timpani, Tenor Harp and Strings”. This evening, I am sure the audience was particularly looking forward to hearing Yevgeny Sudbin’s own arrangement, presented by just himself and his piano. It was a victorious performance of a victorious piece; his quality of characterisation, of love, battle, adventure and thrill, was conveyed, while the repeated themes of love and battle strand were manipulated imaginatively in his interpretation. Whether a hovering sweet melody or blood-rushing thunder, Yevgeny’s impeccable technique pinned the audience to the chair – never a dull moment.
However, when I heard Yevgeny for the first time at Wigmore Hall many years ago, it was his Scarlatti Sonatas which totally got me. They were electrifying. I remember thinking that this pianist had the gift of being able to draw the audience in completely. This evening’s programme started with a set of four Scarlatti Sonatas, and I was delighted to experience this special gift again. The audience fell into a total silence. Super sensitivity with pure clarity were treasured while bold passages spoke inspiration. Yevgeny’s performance was never set and fixed in mould, it had spirit and spontaneity.
This was true with Tchaikovsky’s Nocturnes, utterly beautiful and touching accounts. Another Nocturne, for left hand only by Scriabin, was a pure delight: extraordinary voicing of the melody with delicateness.
In the hands of Yevgeny, Gaspard de la Nuit, labelled as a virtuoso masterpiece of phenomenal difficulty, was under control. Again, he illustrated the characterisation of the whole picture without failing to convey the minute details. Yevgeny’s performance struck me as less malicious and dark than what was described in the programme note (‘grotesque’, ‘hobgoblins’ and ‘nightmares’ etc.), but more vivid and undisguised as well as illusional. The full range of volume, textures and colours with hyper precision elicited by Yevgeny was simply amazing.