In a programme entitled Piano Music of three cultures: Russia, Ukraine, Ireland, the young Ukrainian-born Irish domiciled pianist Svetlana Rudenko states in her pre-concert blurb that ‘Field sowed the seeds of the Russian melodic piano style, with its characteristic beauty of tone which makes the piano sing’.
The Field in question is composer John who, born in Dublin, spent most of his life in Moscow, where he died in 1837. His early Romantic style influenced many composers there and elsewhere.
Strangely, however, Ms Rudenko decides against including any Field in her recital, devoting her hefty first half to Rachmaninov’s thirteen Op 32 Preludes before a relatively short post-interval sequence of living Ian Wilson and John Buckley and Igor Shamo who died in Kiev in 1982.
I am uncertain about Svetlana Rudenko’s wisdom in tackling the Rachmaninov. Her task is formidable, as the passionately dramatic pieces demand exceptional interpretative stills and maybe this young artist is not quite ready to fully plunge their emotional depths.
However, Ms Rudenko possesses a commanding technique and she also has the ability of letting Rachmaninov’s melodic lines sing.
Written in 1910, the Preludes constantly create imaginative impressions and Svetlana Rudenko conveys this to her audience. Besides, there is a fairly continuous tintinnabulation, be this gentle tinkling or mighty clanging, and in the shifting colours of her response, Ms Rudenko keeps us alert to this facet of the composer’s writing.
Interestingly I find the two Irish pieces – Ian Wilson’s A Haunted Heart and John Buckley’s The silver apples of the moon, The golden apples of the sun – continuing a pianistic line from the Russian tradition. Is this the influence of Field again I wonder?
Building to a sonorous climax, Wilson’s flowing phrases are handsomely crafted while Buckley’s Yeats- inspired essay, written for the Dublin International Piano Competition in 1993, is as much expressively etched as it is technically challenging.
Svetlana Rudenko turns to the land of her birth with music by Igor Shamo. With its light-hearted nature, ‘Troika’ from his Paintings of Russian Painters is reminiscent of Prokofiev in genial mood while an equally agreeable piece from his Gutsil Watercolours has touches of Mussorgsky and Rachmaninov and even Debussy in its late-romantic mould.