Yevgeny Sudbin comes to Washington this Saturday to play a recital at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, sponsored by Washington Performing Arts Society. The Russian pianist, still in his 20s, has amassed an impressive discography, and his recordings and live performances have garnered positive, sometimes wild critical acclaim. His recital program was originally supposed to open with a set of three Scarlatti sonatas, all recorded on his 2005 Scarlatti CD for BIS, but they have been replaced with a second Haydn sonata. One should hope for some Scarlatti sonatas as encores, because Sudbin's Scarlatti is one of the best recent performances on piano, a Steinway D in a concert hall in Sweden. The technique is sparkling, nearly faultless, and Sudbin looks for and finds as many different colors and textures as he can, an appreciation of the goal of the sonatas that Sudbin makes clear in his unusually fine liner essay. In keeping with the style of performance in the 18th century, Sudbin adds little flourishes and embellishments, more on repeats. Perhaps a bit oddly, he tends to do this more in sonatas with quick tempi, like K. 427, than in slow sonatas like K. 197, where one would expect a much more ornamented approach.
Scarlatti, Sonatas, Y. Sudbin
(released on March 29, 2005)
BIS SACD 1568
Jens has already given Sudbin's Scriabin disc very high marks, and there is little for me to add. Unfortunately Sudbin is not going to play any Scriabin at the Kennedy Center either, although one can hope for an etude or other small piece as an encore. Recent live performances of Scriabin by Garrick Ohlsson and others, especially the sonatas (few and far between, actually), have not been exemplary, until we go back to Håkon Austbø in 2005. Players with superlative technical prowess, into which category Sudbin definitely falls, tend to have the best handle on the works of Scriabin, because they are able to give a diabolical impression in the ultra-demanding passages: Marc-André Hamelin (among complete sets, preferable to Ashkenazy, which has been in my collection for years, but perhaps not to Austbø, who also happens to be the most budget-friendly), Yuja Wang (developing), Mikhail Pletnev, and Sviatoslav Richter come to mind. It is sometimes hard to reconcile the strangeness of many parts of the sonatas, like the frenzied opening to no. 5, with the Chopinesque tepidity of some of the small pieces. Sudbin bridges the two extremes with an edgy neurotic approach to the prettier, lightweight works that does not shy away from accepting their beauty.
Scriabin, Sonatas 2, 5, 9, and other works, Y. Sudbin
(released on October 30, 2007)
BIS CD 1508
Bryce Morrison has written that Sudbin is plagued by "nervous tension" in live performances, but the proof will be in hearing Sudbin's recital on Saturday, when listeners will get a taste of Sudbin's Haydn, Chopin, and Medtner, as well as what is likely to be a memorable performance of Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit. The recital has already sold out (you can try contacting WPAS directly about tickets), but we will have a report early next week.
We may get some Scriabin after all -- during the Miami performance of this recital program, reviewed by South Florida Classical Review, Sudbin substituted two Scriabin mazurkas for the Medtner Fairy Tales originally announced.