Ilya Yakushev and Thomas Mesa - IKIF

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Donald Isler
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Ilya Yakushev and Thomas Mesa - IKIF

Post by Donald Isler » Mon Jul 29, 2019 1:32 pm

Ilya Yakushev, Piano
Thomas Mesa, Cello
21st International Keyboard Institute and Festival
Lang Recital Hall at Hunter College

July 27th, 2019

Scriabin: Prelude and Nocturne For the Left Hand, Op. 9
Mussorgsky: Pictures At an Exhibition
Mr. Yakushev

Rachmaninoff: Sonata For Cello and Piano in G Minor, Op. 19
Mr. Mesa and Mr. Yakushev

Though pianist Ilya Yakuyshev has been a part of the International Keyboard Institute and Festival organization for many years I had somehow never heard him play before. This was rectified on Saturday evening by this all-Russian solo and duo recital. Interestingly, though he says he plays relatively little Russian music, the St. Petersburg-born Mr. Yakushev seems to have this music in his blood, and gave very effective, and emotional performances.

He began with the two famous left-hand works of Scriabin. The Prelude started slowly and tugged and pulled gently forward. It led directly into the Nocturne, which had a flowing beginning, and a powerful middle section. Later on there was the lovely filigree section, and a beautiful end.

Mr. Yakushev's "Pictures" were big-boned and confident. He "feels" everything, bringing out the individual character of each section. Every time the Promenade returned it had an entirely different sound and character.

"The Old Castle" was distant and mysterious. "Bydlo" was heavy, and "The Unhatched Chicks" were very fast and light, with a cute ending. There was a breathless dash through "The Market at Limoges", and "Catacombs" was eerie. Yakushev tore through "The Hut On Fowl's Legs", then did a big buildup to "The Great Gate of Kiev", the theme of which he did not play loudly at the beginning, though there was a huge sound at the end.

My introduction to the Rachmaninoff Sonata for Cello and Piano was an informal reading on Long Island many years ago with cellist Gilberto Munguia and my teacher, pianist Constance Keene. I've marveled at that work ever since. It does present a few problems, however. There are limits as to how loudly the cello can play. But there are NO such limits on the piano, and, as the piano part was written by one of the greatest pianists who ever lived. it's hard to restrain oneself when playing such glorious, pianistic writing. On this occasion, Ilya Yakushev played the sonata with Thomas Mesa, a very fine cellist with a busy solo and chamber music career. Though there were occasional places where I wished I could hear the cello a little bit more, Mr. Yakushev, for the most part, was a good partner, playing at reasonable volume.

After the slow beginning, the first movement was played at a moderate tempo. The lush second theme was heard first in the piano and then "dreamily" in the cello. Later, that theme returned, in languid manner on the piano and softer on the cello. The coda was wittily played. The second movement had a gritty beginning, which contrasted later with a very romantic theme. There was also a wonderful section in A-Flat Major.

The third movement is, perhaps, the emotional high point of the sonata. It is warm and expansive, a duet between the two instruments. The balance here was very fine, and the rubato very natural sounding. There was tenderness and passion, and some really wonderful moments.

The fourth movement began energetically, followed by the slow second theme, in the cello. There were huge contrasts in moods and dynamics in this movement. Indeed, these musicians' ability to linger, and enjoy the moment, as well as to rush passionately forward, helped make this an impressive performance.

Donald Isler
Donald Isler

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