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RECITAL REVIEW
Dominican University of California Guest Concert Series / Sunday, November 15, 2015
Mikola Suk, piano

Pianist Mikolya Suk

SIC TRANSIT GLORIA SIGISMUNDI

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 15, 2015

One often hears of yet another new fiery Russian pianist, and the mental picture is of a 16-year old with octaves and temperament to burn. But older Russian artists can command a virtuoso’s seat the piano, as aptly proved by Mykola Suk in his recital Nov. 15 before 150 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall.

Seventy years is of little consequence when a pianist has the vision and technique of Mr. Suk, and the recital juxtaposed two familiar works with several “old ghosts” in the repertoire.

Familiarity was contained in Beethoven’s “Moonlight” and Liszt’s “Dante” Sonatas. Both were played with exceptional attention to pianistic details, and the Liszt work (Fantasia Quasi Una Sonata: Apres une lecture de Dante) has been a specialty for the artist. It was not note perfect playing but Mr. Suk’s powerful octaves and tremolos in the treble gave the work the needed free rhapsodic character.

Unfolding at a moderate tempo the Beethoven C-Sharp Minor Sonata had many interesting touches: novel broken chords, unusual slight end-of-phrase pauses and avoidance of ritards. The Allegretto was played demurely and omitted any nod to the dance textures.

Mr. Suk tore into the Presto Agitato finale and played it with dramatic staccato chords and tumult when it was necessary, but also with blurred right hand scales and substantial damper pedal.

Two rarely-heard works, Beethoven’s improvisatory Op. 77 Fantasia and Hummel’s La Contemplazione (Op. 107, No. 3) passed without making much of an impression in the all-fantasy program, but Thalberg’s Moses In Egypt Fantaisie, Op. 33, a paraphrase from Rossini’s opera, certainly did. The late Raymond Lewenthal resurrected the piece and sporadically it appears on a festival or scholarly program. Here it had center stage.

Mr. Suk’s passage work with countless arpeggios and Rossini’s luscious tunes were impressive, and the loud repeated chords were telling. One has to either like opera paraphrases or not. I do. And Mr. Suk sits at the instrument (like Thalberg) with little extraneous motion. It’s all business for him, and one can be happy to have heard the “Moses” in such an artistic performance before it settles again into obscurity.

There was no encore.