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Seen and Heard Recital Review


Bach, Debussy, Shostakovich, Chopin, Prokofiev: Rustem Heyroudinoff (piano). Wigmore Hall, 21.12. 2006 (CC)



It was Rustem Heyroudinoff’s recording of the Dvořák’s Piano Concerto on Chandos (CHAN10309, with the BBC Philharmonic under Noseda) that made me curious to hear him live. In the Chandos recording (coupled with the Violin Concerto with James Ehnes as soloist), Heyroudinoff was rather literal in approach, but there was enough there to make me want to know more. He is a Professor of Piano at the Royal Academy here in London, and boasts Lev Naumov and Christopher Elton as his teachers.


Unfortunately, the literal streak was more pronounced live. Here is a performer with all the technique at his disposal, but the bright, almost martellato and nearly typewriterish Prelude to Bachs Third English Suite  immediately pointed towards his major fault – a lack of true involvement with the msuic he plays. He was best in the Courante (although he could perhaps have been more exuberant) and worst in the doom-laden Sarabande (he simply did not have the concentration to pull off his slow speed).


Debussy’s Suite bergamasque requires real subtlety and a large emotional range. Heyroudinoff seemed to want to substitute over-projection for expression. Intimacy was lacking throughout, meaning the subtle perfume of the Menuet was entirely missing (as was the case of the famous Clair de lune’, complete with clumsy chording).


The Shostakovich was a selection of Preludes and Fugues from Op. 87. (1950/1). One cannot but be impressed by Shostakovich’s invention (the Bachian play with identifiably Shostakovichian harmonies works very well). Best was the Prelude to the E minor, with its organ pedal-like opening, but the development of the Fugue from tender intimacy (not really part of  Heyroudinoff armoury) to truimph seemed poorly judged. Only the big D flat suited him in any real way. He was more at home here, but it was too late. The interval was something of a relief. Much of the break was spent discussing what Heyroudinoff might do with (or to?) Chopin Mazurkas.


He played a set of three to open his Chopin group (Opp. 56/2, 17/4 and 63/3). The first was unbelievably heavy and clangy (a Mazurka with ideas above its station?). The famous, melancholy Op. 17/4 at least had fair decorations;  Op. 63/3 just came and went. The C sharp minor Scherzo, full of careful double octaves, blessed with an over-reaching literalism and with little or no sense of structural cohesion, was far worse than anything so far. Finally, Prokofiev’s  Seventh Sonata, so beloved of giants such as Pollini and Richter. No space for little men in this work!. Talking of which, Heyroudinoff seemed to deliberately blunt his characterisations, so pregnant passages were left with no mystery while violence’s edge was softened. Langorous sections threatened to fall apart; the slow movement amazingly, somehow, lost its essential bittersweet edge. The daredevil-fast finale might please the shallower listener, but it did Prokofiev no favours. Infinitely disappointing.


Colin Clarke



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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)