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FRIENDS OF MUSIC: KONSTANTIN SOUKHOVETSKI (article first published : 2007-03-8)

Konstantin Soukhovetski is a 26-year-old Russian pianist, born in Moscow but living for the past eight years in the United States (he speaks fluent English with an American accent).

He is a brilliant performer, as was amply demonstrated in this recital at the Durban Jewish Centre for the Friends of Music. Half his programme was devoted to Russian music, the rest to Chopin’s celebrated Sonata in B flat minor and to arrangements of film music by the American composer Philip Glass.

The Russian pieces were well off the beaten track, and I found them most enjoyable, especially Shostakovich’s Seven Dolls’ Dances. This composer is associated in the minds of most people with long and rather grim symphonies, but he had his lighter side, as shown by his attractive jazz music. These dolls’ dances fall into that genre, although they are not jazzy.

They are arrangements of music from his earlier ballet suites, delectable and, I imagine, difficult to play. Konstantin Soukhovetski gave a splendid performance, with humour and just the right amount of bravura.

Tchaikovsky’s 12 pieces called The Seasons are something of a rarity, except perhaps as examination set works for students. Konstantin played three of them with tender loving care.

Alexander Scriabin is a somewhat enigmatic composer: grand or grandiose, mystical or pretentious? His Sonata No 3 in F sharp minor was delivered by the pianist with enormous virtuosity, as impressive as a physical spectacle as it was as a sound experience. The pianist unravelled its complexities with great skill and commitment in a convincing and unusual performance.

Philip Glass (born 1937) made his reputation as an avant-garde, minimalist composer, but in recent years he has blossomed in the more accessible field of film music. His music for the film The Hours has become well-known and has been arranged as a piano concerto and as pieces for solo piano. Konstantin Soukhovetski played four of these. With their shifting harmonies and dark musical texture they are interesting, especially the first one, The Poet Acts, but to my ear they are what they were intended to be: background film music.

The Chopin sonata, which ended the recital, was played with great vigour and speed but sometimes lacked clarity, except in the beautiful slow theme of the second movement Scherzo.

Responding to enthusiastic applause, the pianist gave as an encore Liszt’s transcription of O Star of Eve, from Wagner’s Tannhauser.

The prelude performer of the evening, funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, was Samantha Leigh Goldblatt (recorder). - Michael Green




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