‘Happy Days’ at St Dunstan in the West with Sasha Grynyuk and Jaga Klimaszewska

 

I have written many times about Sasha Grynyuk’s playing and it was indeed like a breath of fresh air in the imposing space of St Dunstan-in -the-West  in Fleet Street.

The Guild Church  is dedicated to Dunstan Bishop of London and Archbishop of Canterbury.Of medieval origin, although the present building, with an octagonal nave, was constructed in the 1830s to the designs of John Shaw. In the early 19th century the medieval church of St Dunstan was removed to allow the widening of Fleet Street and a new church was built on its burial ground.  St Dunstan-in-the-West is one of the churches in England to share its building with the Romanian Orthodox  community (St. George church).

The chapel to the left of the main altar is closed off by an iconoctasis, formerly from  Antim Monastery in Bucharest  and dedicated in 1966.

Two of the happiest works by Beethoven were on the programme.The Sonata for solo piano in E flat op 31 n.3 (The Hunt) and the Sonata for violin and piano op 24 (The Spring )  both written in 1801 and 1802.Sasha was joined by the distinguished violinist Jaga Klimaszewska.

The Sonata op 31 n.3   was the one much associated with Artur Rubinstein and was infact the opening work in his farewell recital that he gave at the Wigmore Hall in 1976.Rubinstein  was a stylist and he made the sonata speak in a unique way without ever loosing sight of the very precise indications of the composer.It was exactly this that came across  today from the very first notes in Sasha Grynyuk’s very sensitive hands.The two questioning  bars, the same notes but a different inflection on each was answered by the rather serious chords growing in sound before the bubble burst and Beethoven’s bucolic humour was allowed full reign to spontaneously overflow.A whole world in only six bars but as any great actor will tell you it is exactly when  the lights go up that the scene is set and you either captivate your audience or loose them.Such subtle details just added to the fun .The rather awkward left hand commented on so coquetishly by the right.The sparkling trills chasing each other up and down the keyboard alternating with the pastoral good humour of the burst of song that seemed to appear out of the fresh country air.The two final chords played quietly took me pleasantly by surprise but made me wonder if that was Beethoven’s or Sasha’s intention!

The Menuetto sang so beautifully it was a real ‘song without words’ and so reminiscent of the ravishing beauty of some of Mendelssohn’s later works of that very title .The famous trio was played with a grace and charm where one could  almost envisage  the dancers elegantly bowing to each other  and it made one realise why Saint- Saens had taken it as the theme for his set of variations for two pianos.The ‘almost too serious’  coda was allowed to die away to a whisper  making room for the bubbling good natured Scherzo.This inversion of the Menuet and Scherzo was unusual and I wonder again whose idea it was?It was so convincing that surely Sasha must know something new from recent authentic  editions? Barenreiter of Jonathan Del Mar or the new Murray Perahia editions perhaps .Beethoven even after 250 years is still the revolutionary!

Sasha with his mentor Noretta Conci Leech.For many years assistant to Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, now in her 90th year she is happy to share her knowledge with an artist such as Sasha .

This scherzo in Rubinsteins hands had an infectious rhythmic relentlessness the same as he had in the Liszt 12th Hungaran Rhapsody or the Saint- Saens 2nd Concerto that my old teacher Freddie Jackson used to tell me had the students on their feet cheering at the end.Beethoven  of course is not to be confused with Saint- Saens or Liszt but this unrelenting rhythmic drive with at the same time  subtle phrasing and colouring is of a chosen few.Sasha can be added to that list on hearing his subtle inflections and characterful playing whilst never loosing sight of the unrelenting undercurrent of energy.The final pianissimo octaves at the end were thrown off with a nonchalant teasing ease that was irresistible indeed especially when coloured so masterly  from the bass.The bustling energy of the hunt with the jumping of hurdles and horn calls was thrown off with  mischievous good humour that made light of the transcendental control that made it all possible.The humorous  feigned tiredness after the hunt and the renewed energy that took us to the final triumphant chords was the ultimate tour de force  in this vividly  perceptive performance.

What better to follow than with the mellifluous ‘Spring ‘ Sonata .Misjudging the acoustic it seemed slightly too fast at the beginning but they soon found their natural tempo where everything seemed to fit so perfectly into place.The sublime beauty of the Adago molto espressivo in Sasha ‘s hands was commented on so movingly by Jaga’s violin.The Scherzo was a tour de force of rhythmic drive and energy before the simple cantabile of the Rondo Allegro ma non troppo.

Sasha Grynyuk can be heard again in the same sonata in the marathon of Beethoven 250 celebrations.The 32 Sonatas played by 32 remarkable pianists on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th October  from 2  until 9 each day- starting with op 2 on Saturday and finishing with op 111 on Sunday.Streamed live on St Mary’s Perivale website    

 

Saturday 3 October 2 – 6 pm
St Mary’s Perivale Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival – Session 1
2.00 Edward Leung: Sonata in F minor Op 2 no 1, 2.25 Andrew Yiangou: Sonata in A major Op 2 no 2, 2.55 Florian Mitrea: Sonata in C major Op 2 no 3, 3.30 Simon Watterton: Sonata in E flat major Op 7, 4.05 Simone Tavoni: Sonata in C minor Op 10 no 1, 4.30 Colin Stone: Sonata in F major Op 10 no 2, 4.50 Mengyang Pan: Sonata in D major Op 10 no 3, 5.20 Callum McLachlan: Sonata in C minor Op 13 ‘Pathetique’, 5.45 Petr Limonov: Sonata in E major Op 14 no 1
Saturday 3 October 7 – 10pm St Mary’s Perivale Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival – Session 2
7.00 Ashley FrippSonata in G major Op 14 no 2, 7.25 Leslie Howard : Sonata in B flat major Op 22, 7.55 Mishka Rushdie Momen: Sonata in A flat major Op 26 ‘Funeral March’, 8.20 Evelyne Berezovsky : Sonata in E flat Op 27 no 1, 8.40 Alexander Ullman : Sonata in C sharp minor Op 27 no 2 ‘Moonlight’, 9.05 Julian Jacobson: Sonata in D major Op 28 ‘Pastoral’, 9.35 Olga Paliy: Sonata in G major Op 31 no 1 
Sunday 4 October 2 – 6 pm St Mary’s Perivale Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival – Session 3
2.00 Iyad Sughayer: Sonata in D minor Op 31 no 2 ‘Tempest’, 2.30 Sasha Grynyuk: Sonata in E flat major Op 31 no 3, 3.00 Andrew Bottrill: Sonata in G minor Op 49 no 1, 3.15 Veronika Shoot: Sonata in G major Op 49 no 2, 3.30 Luke Jones: Sonata in C major Op 53 ‘Waldstein’, 4.05 Ben Schoeman: Sonata in F major Op 54, 4.25 Martin Cousin: Sonata in F minor Op 57 ‘Appassionata’, 5.00 Dinara Klinton: Sonata in F sharp major Op 78, 5.20 Daniel Lebhardt: Sonata in G major Op 79, 5.35 Ilya Kondratiev: Sonata in E flat major Op 81a ‘Les Adieux’ 
Sunday 4 October 7 – 10 pm St Mary’s Perivale Beethoven Piano Sonata Festival – Session 4
7.00 Mark Viner: Sonata in E minor Op 90, 7.20 Yehuda Inbar: Sonata in A major Op 101, 7.50 Julian Trevelyan: Sonata in B flat major Op 106 ‘Hammerklavier’, 8.40 Amit Yahav: Sonata in E major Op 109, 9.05 Konstantin Lapshin: Sonata in A flat major Op 110, 9.30 Alim Beisembayev: Sonata in C minor Op 111 

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