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Hamelin & Karpeyev


Philharmonia Orchestra Martin Musical Scholarship Fund Recital
Brahms Theme with Variations in D minor; Brahms Variations on a Theme of Paganini, Op.35, Book II; Ravel Pavane pour une infante defunte; Ravel Ondine; Stravinsky 3 Movements from Petrushka
Queen Elizabeth Hall, 17 February 6pm


International Piano Series
Beethoven Piano Sonata in E, Op 109; Beethoven Piano Sonata in A flat, Op 110; Schubert Piano Sonata in B flat, D.960
Queen Elizabeth Hall, 18 February 3.30 pm

Two piano recitals on consecutive afternoons at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall made for an interesting comparison. KARPEYEV, a 23-year old Russian-trained student at The Guildhall School of Music & Drama, was introduced with an exhortation for us to enjoy his 'virtuosity'. That - in one of its meanings - was vindicated in a Scarlatti sonata encore, played without repeats at breakneck speed; "a young man in a hurry" said another critic present.

It was preceded by hard-hitting assaults upon the Brahms string sextet transcription (Variations in D minor) which gave not a hint of the warm sonority of its string sextet origin, followed by a charmless account of the testing Book 2 of the Paganini Variations, which featured power and finger dexterity (not too many splashes). To end the programme, a commanding but predictably unsubtle traversal of the Stravinsky Petrushka transcription (try Pollini to hear how it can sound). Rapturously received by a large pop-in audience, this was an occasion of a kind which makes a critic feel odd-man-out. For London readers interested to check him out again, Alexander Karpeyev can be heard in a one-hour recital at the Guildhall School on March 8, 6 p.m.

Marc-Andre Hamelin, playing possibly the same instrument and with a similar stage set-up, came as from another world. I loved his accounts of Beethoven and Schubert; other experienced listeners there didn't.

The two Beethoven sonatas were given as if a single work, with no departure from the platform to break concentration. The Schubert was spacious, making a good case for including the first movement repeat with its striking bridge passage. He played un-showily, assuming his audience's familiarity with the scores, so that he had no need to bring out clearly every note. But let there be no doubt that he can when he wants to. His pedalling was as he wanted, and some blurring was far from unintended (c.p. the studied staccato of the trio in Schubert's D960 'neither other-worldly nor smoothed over; its staccato oddness simply made to jut out' (Ying Chang in a full review for Classical Source).

I found the whole engrossing and moving, and was not minded to indulge in comparisons with the numerous great interpretations remembered and available on CD (e.g. Sokolov on naive classique (Opus111 CE7E6). Rather than venturing further out of my depth, it pleases me to share with you a discovery earlier today. Chancing upon a page of Jessica Duchen's lively blog (15 February entry) I found myself offered decent live recital videos of the first two movements of the Op 109 and 110 !

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words; a cop out, or a useful way to tap the riches of the internet? Responses please, welcomed.

Peter Grahame Woolf