Iyad Sughayer at St Mary’s 3rd March 2020

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I have heard Iyad play many times and listened to his superb new CD of the works of the Armenian composer Aram Khatchaturian.I must say that a whole CD whilst being very impressive can be overwhelming as well.So it was very refreshing to hear just one of the very earliest works as an opening to his recital a few weeks ago at St Mary’s Perivale. The Poem from 1927 took us on a fascinating journey full of oriental colours and flights of fantasy.Such subtle colours and seemless virtuosity  that sprang so naturally from his hands.It was as though this young Jordanian born pianist knew the same  wonderland that  was a similar part of his heritage too. It is not surprising that his CD has created quite a stir in the press with a five star consensus from every angle. This is how  Khachaturian himself described his musical formation:

“I grew up in an atmosphere rich in folk music: popular festivities, rites, joyous and sad events in the life of the people always accompanied by music, the vivid tunes of Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgian songs and dances performed by folk bards [ashugs] and musicians — such were the impressions that became deeply engraved on my memory, that determined my musical thinking. They shaped my musical consciousness and lay at the foundations of my artistic personality… Whatever the changes and improvements that took place in my musical taste in later years, their original substance, formed in early childhood in close communion with the people, has always remained the natural soil nourishing all my work.

His most popular work is of course Spartacus from the 1950’s although his early piano concerto of  1936 written for Lev Oborin received its UK premier in 1940 from the hands of Moura Lympany directed by Alan Bush.Moura worked on it with Uncle Tobbs(Tobias Matthay )who loved it.It was originally offered to Clifford Curzon but he said give it to Moura she learns so much quicker that I ever could.She recorded it twice with great success.

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I will re-listen with care to his CD which was inspired by his early work with Murray McLachlan at Chethams where he was sent as a teenager to receive the training that his early talent demanded. “For his debut disc, the Jordanian-Palestinian pianist Iyad Sughayer has put together a recital spanning from the ample and demanding Sonata to the delightful Childrens Album, consisting of ten miniatures, in turn playful and poignant. The recital closes with a piece which did a great deal to establish Khachaturians name near the outset of his international career. Composed in 1932 (allegedly in a single evening), the Toccata in E flat minor soon established itself among the showpieces of the modern repertoire and was to become a calling-card for aspiring virtuosi. Iyad Sughayer was born in 1993 in Amman, where he received his early training.He now also teaches at the RNCM in Manchester.”

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The Mozart Sonata in D K.576 took us immediately into a different world.A precision jewel that glittered in the hand of this young pianist who whilst giving great rhythmic impetus imbued the few essential notes of Mozart’s score with such character and playful meaning.A clarity and beauty of sound that allowed Mozarts genius to unfold without any artifice.Almost a cat and mouse game in the first movement as the left hand followed closely the right .The subtle modulations beautifully played as they searched for their way back to the opening subject.The Adagio  had a beautiful sense of legato ,slightly lacking in colour but it was the purity and clarity of the sound that was something to marvel at.A superb use of the pedal never allowed a cloud to pass over the sublime simplicity of the melodic line even in the most intricate passages.The modulations were most movingly shaped with a slight rubato and legato and staccato played with such naturalness and good taste. The Allegretto was thrown off with a playful simplicity and a joyful mastery that was shared with his very appreciative audience.

Image may contain: one or more people and textHarmonies poétiques et religieuses (Poetic and Religious Harmonies), S.173, is a cycle of piano pieces written by  Franz Liszt at Voronivtsi, the Polish-Ukrainian country estate of Liszt’s mistress Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein in 1847, and published in 1853. The pieces are inspired by the poetry of  Alphonse de Lamartine, as was Liszt’s symphonic poem  Les Préludes.Iyad chose four of the ten pieces : n.1 Invocation,n.9 Andante lagrimoso,n.7 Funerailles,n.10 Cantique d’amour.There was grandeur and a real self identification with Liszt’s great rhetorical statements in Invocation and an outpouring of melodic invention of heartrending significance in the Andante lagrimoso.The gong deep in the bass at the opening of Funerailles built up to a passionate outburst that melted so beautifully into one of Liszt’s most touching melodies .A wonderful liquid sound that contrasted so well with the full orchestral sounds that surround this moment of true magic.It could have been played with the same simplicity as Iyad’s Mozart but this was a young man playing with great commitment and passion as it led to the ever advancing army with a  left hand of quite fearless technical assurance.The glorious victorious outbursts at the end were allowed to die away into the distance in a mist of mysterious sounds.Cantique d ‘ amour sang so expressively on a wave of magic arabesques with a wonderful sense of balance and use of the pedal that allowed the melodic line to be exposed and shaped so naturally.     



“I’ve listened to your Khachaturian CD and it is utterly superb. I knew the Sonata from Gilels recording but you have all the outsize virtuosity for this outsize work. But everything in your playing is so richly coloured and with a born empathy for Khachaturian’s very distinctive idiom. A dazzling success, and I look for to hearing you on further recordings and, hopefully, in London.”Bryce Morrison

Press: Khachaturian Piano Works – Reviews Gramophone: “exhilarating and delivered with perfect clarity…a release that leaves one eager to hear Sughayer in other repertory while eloquently arguing that Khachaturian’s piano music deserves re-evaluation” Patrick Rucker. International Piano (Critic’s Choice): “in his championing of largely forgotten music…this Jordanian-Palestinian player shines.” Michael Church. Piano Journal (EPTA): Sughayer tackles its fiendishly demanding outer movements with tremendously spirited pianism.’ Alexander ThompsonPlanet Hugill: ‘Sughayer is clearly master of the complex demands of Khachaturian’s virtuoso piano writing’. Robert Hugill. Cross-Eyed Pianist: ‘this disc is fine showcase for Iyad Sughayer’s talent and an excellent introduction to the piano music of Aram Khachaturian.’ Frances Wilson. Music-Web International: ‘BIS appear to have unearthed another piano- playing diamond’. Richard Hanlon. 



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