Alexander Sunman (piano)

Alexander Sunman (piano)

Callaway Auditorium

reviewed by Neville Cohn

At his first recital since returning to Perth after taking part in the Prague Spring Festival Piano Competition, seventeen-year-old Alexander Sunman left one in little doubt that he comes to the keyboard with a number of precious musical assets.

He is blessed with what appear to be fundamentally very strong and agile fingers that allow him to negotiate even very tricky pianistic obstacle courses with ease. As well, he demonstrated considerable forearm strength that enables massive fortissimi to be generated without any noticeable strain. His musical memory, moreover, is impeccable.

For the moment, though, these significant assets are not fully yielding the musical dividends that they ought ideally to do; they need to be invested, as it were, to better advantage.

A penchant for over-rapid tempi, and a disconcertingly over-assertive approach to Mozart’s ‘Hunt’ Sonata, K 576 detracted from listening pleasure in a work that needs a cool head and absolute control of semiquaver note-streams.

This was only fleetingly evident in the outer movements which were informed by a sense of rush that was stylistically dubious – as was an occasional tendency for the left hand to play too loudly. This made for disconcerting listening. One longed, too, for a more reflective approach to the slow movement so as to allow the music to breathe more at the conclusion of phrases.

Similarly in Tchaikowsky’s June, one felt a need for a more introspective approach to this exquisite little barcarolle.

These reservations notwithstanding, there is every reason – on the evidence of this recital – to believe that with greater performing experience and careful guidance, the very substantial inherent musical gift of the soloist will shine through – as it did, splendidly, in Brahms’ Intermezzo opus 118 no 2. This was the high point of the afternoon. With notes clothed in refulgent tone, tempi that sounded entirely appropriate – and considerable success in revealing the interior mood of the writing – this young pianist took up an interpretative position at the emotional epicentre of the writing; it is playing of this calibre that augurs well for a concert career.

Two extracts from Janacek’s On an Overgrown Path were finely considered with a commendable understanding of the composer’s idiosyncratic style. I look forward to hearing this young pianist performing the entire cycle, wondrously original music which is heard far too seldom locally.

Beethoven’s Rage over a Lost Penny, though, was less persuasive; it needed the rhythmic reins to be more tightly held to avoid this magnificent outburst of musical exasperation teetering on the brink of incoherence.

Rachmaninov’s Prelude in G minor was similarly rushed. Much the same could be said of the central section of Chopin’s Etude in E from opus 10, which was invested with a turbulence that sounded excessive.

Notwithstanding these reservations, there’s little doubt that this young pianist has the potential to go far. He
is shortly to take up a scholarship in Singapore and one looks forward very much to hearing this young musician after what is likely to be an intensive learning experience.

Copyright 2004 Neville Cohn

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