Laureate Series - Piano
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757) Sonata in E major K.135 L.225. P234 [3.50]; Sonata in D minor K1.L366.P57 [1.45]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937) La Valse (1919-20) [10.55]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Images Book II: ‘Cloches a travers des feuilles’ [5.05]; Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut [5.50]; Poissons d’or [3.56]
Daniel MATEOS (b. 1977) Orión (2008) [9.16]
Sergey RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor Op.36 (Version 1931) [20.41]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) Three Movements from ‘Petrushka’ (1911) [16.37]
Antonii Baryshevskyi (piano)
rec. Professional Conservatory of Music, Jaén, Spain, 24 October 2009. DDD
NAXOS 8.572573 [78.42]

When I first looked at the contents of this generously filled CD the programme reminded me somewhat of a Wigmore Hall recital. The impression was underlined by the sequence starting with two fleet-of–foot Scarlatti Sonatas. Then I looked more carefully. Neither La Valse nor the Rachmaninov Second Sonata are works which debutants take on with anything approaching alacrity. No, Antonii Baryshevskyi (b.1988) – who until now, I am ashamed to say, I had not heard of - is something rather more special.

First his biography which is given the booklet. Amongst his prizes is one from his homeland, the Ukraine, where he is the holder of a scholarship called, extraordinarily enough, Man of the Year. He won First Prize in the Fourth Performer-Composer International Piano Competition in St. Petersburg in 2004 and amongst other prizes first prize and Contemporary Music Prize at the 51st Premio Jaén International in Spain in 2009. This recording celebrates that competition. Included in the programme is a new work by Malaga-born Daniel Mateos: Orión. As the landscape in that part of Spain can be somewhat lunar for much of the year, the musical soundscape of this work is often harsh and brittle. This is exacerbated by the close and at times airless recording which made me continually fiddle with the volume control. Orion is one of the largest and most conspicuous constellations in the night sky and Mateos’s piece is at once both blindingly glaring and mysterious. It was written especially for the Jaén Competition.

Following Ravel’s La Valse in its piano version I found that I heard more of the detail than in any other recording. However, for my taste, Baryshevskyi gets too carried away if that’s possible, in the whirling final pages. It all becomes too percussive. Again, is that the acoustic at the Conservatoire in Jaen or the closeness of the miking creating a rather brittle sound? For the most part he tackles Debussy with great sensitivity. His Cloches in the first of the Images (Book II) rings out with, if I may use an oxymoron, a muffled clarity in a slower than usual performance. The atmosphere of descending Moonlight in the second is captivating. Poissons d’Or has a quixotic motion but the forte passages are sometimes rather heavy-handed.

It’s in the Russian repertoire that Baryshevskyi is really at his best and this Rachmaninov Secod Sonata is an excellent choice. It is a three movement work revised at almost the same time as the Third Symphony, but originally from 1913. The second movement, which rises to an impassioned climax has, on either side a typically romantic and moving melody. I love Konstantin Scherbakov’s singing tone on Naxos (8.554669) and you can hear Horovitz playing the third movement in 1976 on You-Tube and be utterly carried away by its brilliance. Nevertheless Baryshevskyi is controlled and impassioned and it is hard to fault his overall reading.

We end with a bang. Baryshevskyi can be his virtuoso self in Stravinsky’s Three Movements from ‘Petrushka’. I love the crispness and the touch of rubato he discovers in the opening Danse russe. This is often quite percussive music and the lack of warmth in the recording helps this piece to ‘shine’ through. Terrific showmanship helps to carry off this astonishingly difficult score and this is as good a rendition as you will ever hear.

Although there is no one interpretation here which especially stands out, taken as a whole this a fine and musically well-balanced recital. It acts as a superb calling-card by a (very) young pianist who is here to stay and who will make a mark of his own in time.

Gary Higginson

A fine and musically well-balanced recital acting as a superb calling-card