Yevgeny Sudbin performs solo piano works by Medtner and Rachmaninov

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COMPOSERS: Medtner; Rachmaninov
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Medtner • Rachmaninov
WORKS: Medtner: Stimmungsbild, Op. 1 – Prologue; Fairy Tales, Op. 20/1, Op. 26/1 , Op. 51/3; Sonata reminiscenza; Canzona Matinata; Sonata tragica. Rachmaninov: Preludes Op. 23 Nos 4 & 5; Op. 32 Nos 5 & 6, 12 & 13
PERFORMER: Yevgeny Sudbin (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BIS BIS-1848 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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Following his excellent recordings of Medtner’s concertos, Yevgeny Sudbin now offers an attractive selection of solo works, coupled with far better known preludes by Medtner’s close friend, Rachmaninov. Medtner’s own Prologue to Op. 1, a tintinnabulation of Russian-style bells accompanying Orthodox-style chant, is a charming opener. Yet elsewhere Sudbin can sound rushed, even brusque. His rather mannered account of the Fairy Tale Op. 51 No. 3 clearly follows the Horowitz recording he warmly recalls in his booklet note by disregarding Medtner’s instructions on articulation (playing staccato where legato is explicitly requested) but without Horowitz’s redeeming playfulness.

Even that piece apart, too often I felt Sudbin does not allow Medtner’s music enough time to breathe, to relish its subtle, almost Fauré-like harmonic inflections. Compare Sudbin’s rather gabbled account of the E flat major Fairy Tale, Op. 26 No. 1 with the more relaxed and therefore telling account by Sofya Gulyak (on Champs Hill); she also, incidentally, gives an excellent account of the Sonata Tragica also programmed by Sudbin.

Sudbin is more compelling in the Rachmaninov preludes. Maybe it helps that their rate of harmonic change is slower, though, ironically, Sudbin is generally less hasty in playing these pieces. Yet he plays the well-known G minor Prelude with requisite fire.

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Daniel Jaffé