Thursday, July 29, 2021

Battle Memorial Hall, Battle, East Sussex

Guest Reviewer, Ateş Orga

Roman Kosyakov crossed my path last November with the release of a consummate, emotionally generous Liszt album including the Préludes et Harmonies poétiques et religieuses (S171d version), sundry album leaves and fragments, and a St Francis of Paola Walking on the Waves nobly epic and sacred (Naxos 8.574148). Winner of the 2018 Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition (Tchaikovsky B-flat minor), he studied in Moscow with Farida Nurizade (Central Music School) and Vladimir Ovchinnikov (Conservatoire), completing his post-graduate training under Pascal Nemirovski (Royal Birmingham Conservatoire). Through his teachers he draws on a vault of defining European traditions – historically Anton Rubinstein, Nikolayeva, Hofmann, Lhévinne, Schnabel, latterly Nadia Reisenberg, Adele Marcus, Naumov, Neuhaus, Nasedkin.

Lisztian maned, conversing with the keyboard, gazing into the firmament, Kosyakov is a poet-artist of commanding intelligence, his freedom of expression and imagination ranging from amorous intimacy to blazing peaks of Vesuvian tumult. He displays a sophisticated sense of architecture, articulate in direction, climax and repose. He cadences to the style born, preparing, suspending and resolving within a subtly stretched timeframe steeped as much in schooled Classical punctuation as liberated Romantic prolongation. His sound and touch are reminiscently old-school, his bass notes, left-hand swinging in low, his voiced chordal harmonies, glowingly sensual, released from somewhere deep within the instrument, fundamentals and overtones trembling in mystic union.

Clarity and precision spotlit the brisker dance movements of Bach’s First Partita BWV825, not so measured as Sokolov but (spurious nineteenth-century metronome marks casting a long shadow) in line with a string of shapers from Landowska, Lipatti and Gould to Argerich. The ‘Sarabande’ was confidingly pensive, Kosyakov nurturing paragraphs to breathe and ornamentation to speak. With Beethoven’s D-major Sonata Opus 10/3 he probed the underlying tragedy of the Largo scena, found teasing wit in the Finale, and favoured short ‘Richter/Gilels’ graces rather than regular quavers in bars 53, 233ff of the opening Presto (Czerny, upheld generally since by the Viennese, believed they should be long).

Viscerally painted Schumann in the second half – Novellete Opus 21/1, Kreisleriana – witnessed abundant ‘Russian’ swirl and passion along with perfumed chapters and arcs of hewn sonority. Projected song (the B-flat second, fourth and sixth movements notably) and savaged landscape in tight sabre mode (the penultimate phantasie) permeated Kreisleriana – encapsulating equally E. T. A. Hoffmann’s “eccentric, wild and clever Kapellmeister” and Schumann’s “disturbing genius”. A panorama of hallucination, physical tempest, manly declamation, the sweetness of love-dreams lost among moon-shadows … minore storm turned maggiore sonnet … intermezzo and episode … was the sum of the narrative.

Gilding the night was a restored 1894 Bechstein boudoir grand (35872). Returning to Bach, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring seemed the right encore for this ebonised old lady, elegantly turned legs and lyre reminding us that drawing-room pianos from the age of Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm, Tsar Nicholas were things of beauty not just utility.