Sasha Grynyuk at St Mary’s for the glorification of Love and Passion

Tuesday April 6 4.0 pm 

Sasha Grynyuk (piano) 

Beethoven: Sonata in E flat Op 81a ‘Les Adieux’ The Farewell Adagio- allegro ,The Absence Andante espressivo,The Return Vivacissimamente

Schumann: Davidsbündlertänze Op 6

Messiaen: Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus no 10
Regard de l’esprit de joie

More superb playing from Sasha Grynyuk.From the first delicate notes of Beethoven’s Les Adieux sonata where he transformed the composers most precise indications into sumptuous sounds of a pastoral farewell,a heartfelt absence and a truly joyous return.
The conflict between Florestan and Eusebius in one of Schumann’s greatest works.Inspired by Schumann’s love for his future wife,Clara,it was played with such loving care by Sasha’s delicate hands that one thought that each of the eighteen pieces could not get any more beautiful.Overwhelmed by the fourteenth ‘zart und singend’ that is possibly the most beautiful thing Schumann ever wrote,we were left with a desolate waltz as this wedding party draws away to a distant magic land.
The barbaric Regard de l’Esprit de Joie by Messiaen was a tour de force of dynamic drive and histrionic declarations of faith.The passionate belief of Messiaen together with his love of nature was overwhelming in it’s relentless insistence.The final transcendental scale in Sasha’s hands just proved that love and passion go hand in hand as they had done all through his enthralling performances today.

Beethoven’s Sonata op 81a ‘Les Adieux’ was written during the years 1809 and 1810.The French attack on Vienna, led by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1809, forced Beethoven’s patron, Archduke Rudolph, to leave the city. and on the first publication in 1811 a dedication was added reading “On the departure of his Imperial Highness, for the Archduke Rudolph in admiration”.

The opening Adagio where Beethoven writes Le-be-Wohl over the first three chords were indeed played with an even deeper meaning on it’s return where the hesitation before the final chord had us already on the edge of our seats.Great care of the phrasing on the gentle upward phrases meant that the arrival at the Allegro sped along in two with an almost pastoral feel of open air and freshness.Sasha’s scrupulous attention to detail made great contrasts between the bare open notes and the bass syncopated comments.It led in turn to the open horn calls answering each other and the delicate quavers like a clear flowing stream in this outdoor landscape.The problematic crescendo on a single note at the end was superbly interpreted and played with great deliberacy instead of the usual half hearted efforts of lesser musicians!The andante espressivo sang with a delicate but full voice where the sforzandi only re enforced the intense feeling created on the arrival of His Imperial Highness the esteemed Archduke Rudolph.Beethoven’s magical pedal over pianissimi rising arbesques made the joy of the return even more intense.There was such clarity in Sasha’s playing with great playfulness and a pastoral feel of well being that was truly refreshing.Played with a rhythmic drive and joie de vivre that even in the final poco andante he kept a constant pulse leading to the joyous ride to the finish.A performance of remarkable lucidity and character where Beethoven’s ever more precise indications were interpreted and made to live again as he himself must have imagined them in his secret ear.

Davidsbündlertänze (Dances of the League of David), Op 6, is a group of eighteen pieces composed in 1837 by Robert Schumann who named them after his music society Davidsbundler-. The low opus number is misleading as it was written after Carnaval Op. 9, and the Symphonic Studies Op. 13 and is widely regarded as one of the greatest piano works of the Romantic era.Schumann’s early piano works were substantially influenced by his relationship with Clara Wieck and on September 5, 1839, Schumann wrote to his former professor: “She was practically my sole motivation for writing the Davidsbündlertänze, the Concerto, the Sonata and the Novellettes.” They are an expression of his passionate love, anxieties, longings, visions, dreams and fantasies.In fact the theme of the Davidsbündlertänze is based on a mazurka by Clara Wieck and the intimate character pieces are one of his most personal works.In 1838, Schumann told Clara that the Dances contained “many wedding thoughts” and that “the story is a wedding eve party, during which old crockery is smashed to bring good luck.”They are not true dances , but characteristic pieces, musical dialogues about contemporary music between Schumann’s characters Florestan and Eusebius that represent the impetuous and the lyrical, poetic sides of Schumann’s nature. Each piece is ascribed to one or both of them. Their names follow the first piece and the appropriate initial or initials follow each of the others except the sixteenth (which leads directly into the seventeenth, the ascription for which applies to both) and the ninth and eighteenth, which are respectively preceded by the following remarks: “Here Florestan made an end, and his lips quivered painfully”, and “Quite superfluously Eusebius remarked as follows: but all the time great bliss spoke from his eyes.”It is one of the most precisely notated works of Schumann where rests,legato and staccato marking are all most carefully indicated.The difficulty for any interpreter is to incorporate all these details into an overall architectural shape from the arresting opening to the wistful waltz dying away into the distance.It was a work that Rubinstein preferred not to play in public because of its quiet ending.Gieseking was superb in his no nonsense multicoloured driven performance.Geza Anda was the most magically poetic with his liquid sound and intelligence.I once suggested to Fou Ts’ong that he should play it for us in his annual Rome recital but he loved it too much and it fell wonderfully apart.(I was on tour when he played it in Rome and poor Ts’ong exhorted: ‘but Chris it was like cooking a meal for someone who did not show up!’He went on to make a wonderful recording of it.All this to say what a challenge Sasha took on today and how refreshing it was to be swept along on a great wave of sounds of such poetic delicacy,colour and at times passionate involvement.Never loosing the undercurrent that drives the music on there was a constant forward movement and great sense of fantasy as Florestan and Eusebius fight it out at the opening before the intimate confessions of Eusebius in the second piece the same sumptuous colours that are dreamt of in the distance of the seventeenth piece after a journey of longing and passion.Florestan bursting on the scene in the third piece played with bucolic charm with Sasha’s great care of legato and staccato.The fourth was played with sweeping passion before the touching simplicity of the coquettish Eusebian charm of the fifth.The devilish syncopation that Florestan combines in the sixth almost caught Sasha out but the continual drive kept him on course magnificently to the passionate outpouring of the coda.Such deeply felt communion in the nicht schnell with the beautiful duet of the mellifluous middle section.Such frivolity too,as Florestan takes over ,with his great character shining through ,leading to the passionate outpourings of the Balladenmassig.The simple beauty of the eleventh was a wonderful oasis before the twelfth that was thrown off with skittish charm before the passionate ‘wild und lustig ‘ of Florestan that Eusebius manages to calm with an almost Brahmsian melodic line of such elegance and beauty.Uniting in a coda of sweep and the charm of a candle coming gently to its end.The most beautiful of course was left to Eusebius with the fourteenth piece played with a heart melting cantabile surrounded by magic figurations flowing on a kaleidoscope of beautiful sounds.Rudely awoken by the fifteenth and the Frisch of Florestan only to have Eusebius wave his magic wand where wondrous sounds appeared of sweep and innermost passion which the fleeting bass notes just seemed to highlight. Florestan takes wing with a capricious interlude of syncopated play between the hands before dissolving into a distant land .Ravishing marvels of sumptuous beauty in Sasha’s delicate hands out of which emerges the recollection of the second piece that gradually builds up to a climax where Florestan and Eusebius seem united but infact it is Eusebius who has the last say.A magic chord opens a landscape where Eusebius alone looks nostalgically back at what has surpassed.Playing of great poetry and the sumptuous sounds of a true musician that could admire all the marvels that surround him whilst on a long journey of discovery.

Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus (“Twenty visions of the infant Jesus”) is a suite of 20 pieces for solo piano by the French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908–1992). It is a meditation on the infancy of Jesus and was composed in 1944 for his wife Yvonne Loriod.Regard De l’Esprit de joie is the tenth and Messiaen writes in the score Thème de danse orientale et plain-chantesque-comme un air de chase,comme des cors,Thème de joie,Thème de Dieu,Dans un grand transport de joie.Messiaen uses Thèmes or leitmotifs, recurring elements that represent certain ideas. They include:Thème de Dieu (“Theme of God”)Thème de l’amour mystique (“Theme of Mystical Love”)Thème de l’étoile et de la croix (“Theme of the Star and of the Cross”)Thème d’accords (“Theme of Chords”).For example, Messiaen has written that “The ‘Theme of Chords’ is heard throughout, fragmented, concentrated, surrounded with resonances, combined with itself, modified in both rhythm and register, transformed, transmuted in all sorts of ways: it is a complex of sounds intended for perpetual variation, pre-existing in the abstract like a series, but quite concrete and quite easily recognizable through its colours: a steely grey-blue shot through with red and bright orange, a mauve violet spotted with leather-brown and encircled by bluish-purple.”

The first performance I ever heard of this piece was at the Leeds International Piano Competition played by Jean Rodolph Kars who has since become a Trappist monk I believe! It is the work of a great believer as the hammered out declaration of the Thème de joie can testify.I don’t know if Sasha is a true believer but I think to play this work with his conviction it must be in that instant truly meaningful.The startling rhythmic savagery of the opening and the constant collision of sounds only added to the heart rending beauty of broken glass and the mysterious repetitive noises over the entire keyboard.The final frantic dance that Messiaen exhorts ‘comme un air de chase,comme des cors’ Sasha generated such excitement with some truly transcendental playing where almost every one of the many notes has a different accidental.Great declarations were played with such overwhelming passionate conviction that the final explosion came as a relief from the tension that had been so masterly created.

Winner of over ten international competitions, prizes and awards, Sasha was chosen as a ‘Rising Star’ for BBC Music Magazine and International Piano Magazine . His successes also include First Prizes in the Grieg International Piano Competition and the BNDES International Piano Competition, in addition to winning the Guildhall School of Music’s most prestigious award – the Gold Medal – previously won by such artists as Jacqueline Du Pré and Bryn Terfel.Sasha has performed in many major venues including Wigmore Hall, Barbican Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Bridgewater Hall (Manchester), Wiener Konzerthaus, Weil Recital Hall (Carnegie Hall, New York), Teatro Real (Rio de Janeiro) and Salle Cortot (Paris). He has performed with such orchestras as the Royal Philharmonic, Bergen Philharmonic and Orchestra Sinfonica Brasiliera. His recording of music by Glenn Gould and Friedrich Gulda for Piano Classics was chosen as the record of the month for the German magazine Piano News and shortlisted for the New York Classical Radio Award. Among Sa sha’s ongoing projects are performances of Shostakovich’s original piano score for the 1929 silent film The New Babylon , which he premièred at LSO St. Luke’s and later performed at Leif Ove Andsnes’ Rosendal Festival, Norway. Born in Ukraine, Sasha studied at the Guildhall School in London. Sasha is a Keyboard Trust artist and currently benefits from the artistic guidance of its founder Noretta Conci-Leech.

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