Anna Tsybuleva. Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham. October 23 2022. 4****. William Ruff


Anna Tsybuleva, piano

Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham

October 23 2022


Review: William Ruff


Anna Tsybuleva in a programme as thoughtful as it was brilliantly performed

On Sunday morning in Nottingham roads had become rivers and trams had to edge through lakes.  However, torrential rain didn’t deter the city’s classical music lovers who turned out in some force to hear the first of this year’s Sunday Piano Series soloists.  It fell to Anna Tsybuleva, the 2015 Leeds International Piano Competition winner, to be the torch-bearer for another season of six recitals.

Anna’s programme was as thoughtful as it was ambitious.  She chose three landmark piano sonatas, covering roughly 100 years of musical history: from C.P.E. Bach to Brahms via Beethoven.  And she had things to say about each sonata before playing it.  Unfortunately, the microphone, which had worked so well for concert manager Neil Bennison’s introduction, didn’t play ball with Anna, for whom it made horrible feedback noises whenever she got close.  But the gist of what she said should have been clear: this concert was a celebration of innovation and experimentation, with each composer pushing at musical frontiers, each with at least one foot in the future.

Carl Phillipp Emmanuel was one of J.S. Bach’s twenty children, becoming a composer who had a major influence on the direction of later music.  Anna chose to perform his Prussian Sonata in B flat, a work which seems to sum up its composer’s belief that music should move the heart emotionally.  Even today, C.P.E.’s music can seem wilfully eccentric and unpredictable with its interrupted rhythms, unexpected pauses and sudden contrasts of dynamics.  Indeed Bach’s musical imagination seems to know no bounds.  Anna Tsybuleva took it all in her stride, seeming to revel in the Bach’s quirkiness and passion for creating the music of the future.

That future includes the second work she played: Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata, one of the best-known in the repertoire.  Anna’s introduction to the first movement featured thunderously accented chords, creating a sharp contrast with the more reflective melodic material.  The ensuing Allegro was brilliantly articulated.  Then came the famous Adagio – where Anna opted for fluid lyricism rather than wallowing in emotion.  Her playing of the Rondo finale was poised, transparent and charming, very appropriate for a movement which Beethoven himself is said to have performed ‘with good humour’.

Finally came the Piano Sonata No 2 written by Johannes Brahms when he was only 19, a young man eager to impress the world both as a pianist and as a composer of promise.  Anna was alive to the dramatic contrasts of passionate pyrotechnics and moments of dark introspection.  It was a thrilling way to end what had been an illuminating, thought-provoking and brilliantly performed programme.

Anna Tsybuleva playing in the Sunday Piano Series at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall

ReviewsGate Copyright Protection