May 28, 1998

A mix of passion and magic

Oleg Marshev — piano

Given the standing ovation and shouts of “Bravo” uncommon at a lunchtime recital, this is the kind of concert that audiences like.

Here was music from the Romantic piano – repertoire given impassioned, authoritative readings from a pianist with the kind of formidable technique we have come to expect from the Russians.

Oleg Marshev is the third Russian pianist to visit Wellington in recent months. All of them have outstanding ability, but all are quite different. As well as a full, rich sound, Marshev displayed a strong harmonic and rhythmic sense and the ability to convey orchestral textures on the keyboard. He has won prizes in international competitions and released eight CDs, including the complete piano works of Prokofiev, which have been praised highly by Gramophone magazine. His first tour of New Zealand comprises 10 recitals and has been arranged by the enterprising Helen Collier who organized the first visit of Konstantin Scherbakov a few years ago. Marshev opened his recital with Siloti’s arrangement of J S Bach’s Organ Prelude in G Minor. From its calm, well-paced introduction, – Marshev was able to open the piece right out so that the piano timbres resembled a full organ sound – no mean feat. The two Chopin works that followed, Polonaise Op 26 No 1 and Barcarolle, were full-bodied performances, idiomatic, but on the grand scale, however the Barcarolle seemed to find the sea choppier than one would expect from a Venetian boat-song.

Rather than trying to match its poetic text, Franz Liszt’s Petrarch Sonnet 104 came across as impassioned and forceful, as did the dazzling Etude in F Minor.

Best of all was the fiendishly difficult Rachmaninov Second Sonata, a dark piece that contrasted “the awesome ringing of bells” with a charming, lilting Siciliano. The quiet passages were magical.

Marshev gave two encores: Rodion Schedrin’s rhythmically charming A la Albeniz and Prokofiev’s display piece Suggestion Diabolique.

Joy Aberdein