Imaginative Freshness

MIKE WHEELER listens to
Beethoven, Mozart and Rachmaninov
from Sasha Grynyuk


Sasha Grynyuk wrapped up the latest series of Sunday morning piano recitals at Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall with a programme that, at first glance, looked almost random on paper; the subtlety of it became clear as it went along – Nottingham, UK, 24 February 2019.

Beethoven's Seven Bagatelles, Op 33, are more than merely, as the saying goes, 'chippings from the master's workbench'. Grynyuk led us through their survey of the composer's often quirky individuality in miniature with aplomb, space-hopping from one refreshingly off-beat sound image to the next. After the almost Schubertian opening of No 1, he leaped, spring-heeled, through No 2's rhythmic games, and ensured that No 3 danced as he invited us to savour its sly harmonic shifts.

Ukrainian pianist Sasha Grynyuk
Ukrainian pianist Sasha Grynyuk

Things turned somewhat Schubertian again in the pastoral-scented opening of No 4, before Grynyuk began exploring the darker middle section. He turned playful once more in the torrential No 5 where, as so often, you never knew what kind of detour Beethoven was going to take next. He savoured the little moments of dissonant spice in the song-like No 6, and treated the final number as an amiable frolic, raising a smile with the throwaway ending.

Mozart's Sonata in D, K 311, is one of three he wrote during his fateful Mannheim-Paris trip of 1777-8. It was an apt choice of centrepiece: substantial without overshadowing the music either side of it. Grynyuk kept the first movement's textures nicely lucid, and gave just enough weight to the second movement's shifts of mood. Though he was just a touch straight-faced in the finale, he had a nicely teasing way with the coda.

Now we could see where all this was heading, as the character-pieces of Rachmaninov's Op 32 Preludes balanced those of the Beethoven we started with. Grynyuk chose five, beginning with the barcarolle-like No 5, whose shimmering figuration was handled with a ideal blend of strength and delicacy. The singing middle-register theme of No 9 was allowed to sound out without being over-weighted. As No 10 swung between wistfulness and more passionate outbursts, Grynyuk's playing maintained its focus on the moment in hand, lyrical in the chant-like opening and close, richly sonorous in the climax. He produced more delicacy in the traceries of Prelude No 12, before ringing the celebratory bells of No 13.

Throughout, imaginative freshness combined with faultless technique to produce a pianistic journey that was as rewarding as it was unhackneyed.

Copyright © 9 March 2019 Mike Wheeler,
Derby UK


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