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Here is versatility touched with a touch of pianistic genius (an overworked term, but one that comes irresistibly to mind) on a truly glorious scale. Having described Yevgeny Sudbin’s first Scarlatti album (his opening salvo for BIS) as of a ‘superlative vitality and super-fine sensitivity’, I now find him transcending such quality with an ever more vivid sense of Scarlatti’s infinite variety, his uninhibited exuberance, his cloudy introspection.

As before, he juxtaposes the familiar and unfamiliar from the 555-plus Sonatas though his incandescent response makes everything sound like a discovery. This is Scarlatti as if new-minted, whether raucous (holding his sides, as it were, with laughter) or lost in dreams. As Sudbin puts it in his refreshingly personal, pedantry-free notes, Scarlatti on a modern instrument needs a radical rethink if one is to recreate and go beyond the harpsichord’s range and glitter. His curtain-raiser is the fiercely canonic and virtuoso K417; and how he relishes every modernist surprise in K373 (the source of Marc-André Hamelin’s wicked take on Scarlatti). There are explosions of energy and retreats into the far distance, a compulsive sense of immediacy and remoteness and, finally, in K32, deep reflection. Magnificently recorded, this album should be in every music-lovers collection, be they pianist, harpsichordist or, indeed, any other instrumentalist.

From Scarlatti to Medtner is a wide step, but once again Sudbin’s way with an interior and recondite idiom is a marvel of poetic commitment. Quoting the poet Ivan Ilyin, Sudbin tells how Medtner can haunt the imagination and remain present ‘long after he is heard no more’. All of Sudbin’s readings glow with eloquence here, a more than worthy follow-up to his recordings of Medtner’s three piano concertos. The music is in his blood and the darkness and menace of the Sonata tragica is conveyed with both magisterial strength (the whirling, declamatory close) and subtlety.

In Rachmaninov (who dedicated his Fourth Concerto to Mednter as a token of his love and respect) Sudbin is free-flowing in the Andante cantabile of the D major Prelude from Op 23 (though he takes the rhetorical climax by storm), time and again reminding you of the critical comment, ‘only a puritan could fail to respond to such beauty’ (prophetic, perhaps, of Alfred Brendel’s unapologetic dislike?). In the final D-flat Prelude from Op 32 he sets Rachmaninov’s massive carillon of Moscow bells ringing in magnificent style. And this, to quote his witty notes, ‘despite the evolutionary disadvantage of regular-sized body parts’ (a reference to this Prelude’s ferocious demands).

Once more, BIS’s sound and presentation are beyond criticism. I can scarcely wait for more Scarlatti, Medtner and Rachmaninov from this astonishing young pianist. Recreation on his level is rare and I should add that unlike too many of his colleagues, Sudbin pays generous tribute to both his teachers and other pianists.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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