Sasha Grynyuk at Cranleigh Arts for Ukraine.

The relief fund that Sasha refers to is the following

Sasha is not well known for his loquaciousness so it was surprising to see him take the microphone and talk to the public in Cranleigh and indirectly to the world via their excellent streaming .A public that had flocked to support the appeal for his fellow countrymen in the Ukraine who have suffered so unjustly from the zealous greed of a despot.

Stephen Dennison in an interval discussion with Sasha Grynyuk

Stephen Dennison and his colleagues at Cranleigh Arts were only too happy to be able show their support for one of their favourite musicians in his crusade for his homeland.

Music is the world that Sasha inhabits as all those that have followed his illustrious career know.Within that rather timid exterior there is an internal fire that ignites the moment he sits at the piano.Now his offence at the unjust occupation of his homeland and I expect encouraged by his recent marriage to Katya Gorbatiouk have opened a door where he feels that his music together with a few carefully placed words can help create funds to alleviate the physical suffering of the people in the Ukraine.Sasha was one of the first to dedicate himself to the Ukraine relief fund in a concert organised by his friends at the immensely welcoming home of Bob Boas and his wife.

A concert that took even Sasha by surprise for the support that it had inspired.He has since dedicated his performances to the Ukraine Relief Fund via the Ukrainian Embassy where he explained every penny of the help offered was used to alleviate some of the immediate suffering.

Little did we know,except for close friends,that Sasha’s parents had fled the bombs of Kiev putting whatever they could in their car as they sought refuge in Poland.Sasha flew to Cracow to meet them and drive them in a long and difficult journey to refuge in the UK.Many days passed without any news until we discovered that they had been given refuge in a community in the English countryside!It reminds me of a similar journey that Rosalyn Tureck undertook as she boarded the luxurious Queen Elisabeth II from Spain back to her home in New York.She knew her Indian Summer in Europe had come to an end after many years,as her cancer that had lain dormant suddenly sprang to life.She arrived back in New York on 9/11!There was no way of communicating with a city that had been so viciously raped by terrorists and we feared the worst for our beloved Rosalyn.Of course it would have taken more than a few terrorists to keep Rosalyn down and when at last communications were open we learnt that she had arrived in her final abode in Riverdale overlooking the Hudson where she was shortly able to join the sublime world of her adored J.S.B.Not necessarily the same thing but the war of terrorism and the siege of the Ukraine are they not acts of war – unjustifiable as all war must be!

It was interesting to hear that the opening work by Liszt had been dedicated to Anton Rubinstein and that the closing work by Balakirev had been dedicated to Nikolai Rubinstein,his younger brother .Scriabin in trying to master the monstrous difficulties of Islamey had been forced into a period of retirement from the concert platform.I well remember Sasha’s intelligent way of programming works into a unified whole.His Wigmore Hall recital too some years ago he opened and closed with a very atmospheric piece by Arvo Part that opened our ears and taste buds as it drew us in to a programme in which we could overhear works by Mozart and Gulda.

A very persuasive performance of one of Liszt’s unjustly neglected late works.I remember Vlado Perlemuter well into his eighties with this score on his music stand.Very expressive recitativi with delicate chordal interruptions always with the yearning or leaning of the duplets.There was such stillness as Bach’s ‘Was Got tut,das ist wohlgetan’ led to the final grandiloquent fervour of a true believer.

Variations on “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen,” S. 180 is one of Franz Liszt’s most significant but understudied piano works. Written after Liszt joined the Third Order of Saint Francis and during a time of deep personal tragedy, this composition reflects both Liszt’s religious journey and his coping with suffering and shows daring explorations of chromaticism that pushed the limits of tonality. It was arranged for organ one year after the piano version was composed and became one of his best-known compositions for organ.The Variations on “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen,” S.180 was written in 1862 when Liszt settled in Rome.It was published by Schlesinger in Berlin two years later. Liszt dedicated it to Anton Rubinstein who unfortunately never performed it in public.Liszt performed it in a festival at Hanover in April of 1875 and is the first record of the public performance of this music. Liszt performed it again in May of 1876.Both performances have no recorded reaction from audiences, but based on Liszt’s self- mockery in his master class of 1885, it could be speculated that the piece was not well- received: In the master class, after August Stradal played the Variations on “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen,” S.180, Liszt said: “If you want a bad criticism, you must play this. It will then be said: ‘the young artist is not lacking in talent —- it remains only to regret that he made such a poor choice of piece.’The organ version appeared in 1863 .”Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen,” S.180 is probably Liszt’s most important set of variations. He composed a prelude on the theme three years earlier which could be seen as a preparation for this work.The chromatic theme of the variations was taken from Bach’s Cantata No. 12 and also used for the Crucifixus of Bach’s mass in B minor. Liszt also used the final chorale “Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan” as the ending section. It is one of the most masterly and ambitious works of Liszt’s third compositional period.While it is an outstanding work, it was not accepted or admired by the musicians of Liszt’s time because of its innovativeness.

Beethoven’s final sonata op 111 was given a masterly performance.From the opening Maestoso chords played as Beethoven implores,where the struggle is implied in the physical risk involved.But played with a sense of architectural shape that led so inevitably to C major and the real struggle of water boiling over at 100 degrees (to quote Schnabel according to Perlemuter).The contrast between extreme energy and moments of peace in the recitativi all leading to the long final peace that heralds the opening of the sublime Arietta and variations.Beethoven’s last word on the Sonatas that were a lifetime’s journey.From his early exuberance through the struggles and hurdles that life threw in his path to the sublime peace that only Beethoven could hear in his inner ear.It was this peace and feeling of constant flow that was such a part of Sasha’s performance.Taking us to the explosion of the third variation and it’s murmured resolution reaching ecstasy and finally sublime peace with streams of sound on which the Arietta was allowed to float as it wove its way ever more upwards to paradise.
I had never thought of the opening of Chopin’s Fantasie as being a funeral March until Sasha mentioned it in his introductory talk even though it is marked Tempo di Marcia.It was played with a real flowing tempo with the poco a poco doppio movimento in an improvised search for the passionate outpouring of the ‘agitato’.A ravishing close to this first half took us magically to the sublime simplicity of the Lento sostenuto.The sudden eruption of the agitato taking us to the passionate outpourings of Chopin’s aristocratic bel canto world.A momentary respite in an improvised recitativo, played with heart rending simplicity and control of the sustaining pedal,before the magical sweep of whispered sounds and the two final majestic chords.
A juxtaposition of Scriabin led to a technical confusion with the subtitles but certainly not with the music!Scriabin’s Prelude and Nocturne op 9 for the left hand alone was pure magic.Sasha showed his sense of balance and technical control,resting his right hand whilst his one hand sang with all the eloquence of two!Wondrous colours in the Nocturne where his use of the sustaining pedal created a ‘halo’ of sound on which the melodic line could float.
A fascinating ‘Valse de salon’ that until a few months ago was completely unknown to me or Sasha’s mentor Noretta Conci.We had heard a young Russian pianist Nikita Lukinov play it in a recital for Noretta’s Keyboard Trust – together with a memorable performance of the usually much maligned Liszt Sonata.This young man had brought this deliciously delicate virtuoso valse to our attention as well as a scrupulous faithfulness to the Liszt Sonata . has since added it to his repertoire where Noretta would like him to programme it in a recital of waltzes by Brahms,Chopin and Ravel.Sasha, today gave a sumptuous performance of style and elegance and real jeux perlé playing of a different age.The age when virtuosity was not how fast and loud one could play but how delicately and quietly one could ravish the keyboard.Sasha revealed himself to be a master of this elusive almost forgotten art !
Suddenly Sasha unleashed his quite considerable technical mastery in a performance of such overwhelming sweep and authority.Sumptuous sounds too with the sublime beauty of the central tenor melody.A hypnotic sense of rhythm allied to a kaleidoscopic range of colour all played with such passion and considerable virtuosity that was as dazzling as it was breathtaking.
An encore of Galuppi’s most magical movement from one of his many neglected sonatas .The one made famous by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and obviously suggested to Sasha by Noretta Conci who was Michelangeli’s assistant for over 15 years

Islamey: Oriental Fantasy Op. 18, by Mily Balakirov was written in 1869 The great New York critic Harold Schonberg said it was “at one time…considered the most difficult of all piano pieces and is still one of the knucklebusters.”It has had a lasting influence on piano solo music; Ravel once remarked to a friend that his goal in writing Gaspard de la nuit was to compose a piece that was “more difficult than Balakirev’s Islamey.” This turned out to be Scarbo, the third piece in the suite.Balakirev, a committed nationalist whose music was influenced by Russian traditions, was inspired to write the piece after a trip to the Caucasus ,as he relates in a letter: :…the majestic beauty of luxuriant nature there and the beauty of the inhabitants that harmonises with it – all these things together made a deep impression on me… Since I interested myself in the vocal music there, I made the acquaintance of a Circassian prince, who frequently came to me and played folk tunes on his instrument, that was something like a violin. One of them, called Islamey, a dance-tune, pleased me extraordinarily and with a view to the work I had in mind on Tamara I began to arrange it for the piano. The second theme was communicated to me in Moscow by an Armenian actor, who came from the Crimea and is, as he assured me, well known among the Crimean Tatars. (Letter to Eduard Reiss (1851–1911), 1892) .Balakirev, considered a virtuoso pianist in his time, once admitted that there were passages in the piece that he “couldn’t manage.” In fact it was Nikolai Rubinstein who premiered the work .In addition, Scriabin seriously damaged his right hand fanatically practicing the piece along with Liszt’s Don Juan Fantasie.

Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Sasha Grynyuk was awarded a scholarship to continue his music studies at the Guildhall School of Music in London. There he was awarded the Gold Medal – the school’s most prestigious award. He currently benefits from the artistic guidance of Noretta Conci-Leech, the founder of the Keyboard Trust. Sasha has performed around the world in many major venues including Barbican Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Wigmore Hall, Wiener Konzerthaus, Weill Recital Hall (Carnegie Hall) and Teatro Real. With orchestras including: Bergen Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Brazil National Orchestra, Ukraine National Symphony.Sasha has won many awards, such as first prizes at the Grieg International Piano Competition in Norway and the BNDES International Piano Competition in Brazil. His recording of music by Gould and Gulda for Piano Classics was chosen as the record of the month for the Piano News magazine and shortlisted for the New York Classical Radio.

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