Boris Giltburg, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

4.00

We'll be hearing a lot more of Boris Giltburg.

At only 24, the young Russian had the audacity to start his debut South Bank recital with Beethoven's transcendent last Sonata, Op.111, the piece you traditionally never follow.

We'll be hearing a lot more of Boris Giltburg.



But there was clear thinking behind the apparent madness throughout his programme and to start the Beethoven, as he did, after a protracted and concentrated silence in which the required energy was visibly revving up inside him, made the maestoso introduction uncommonly intense with Giltburg hunched over the keyboard leaning into every dissonance.



The explosive allegro appassionato was all the more precipitous for it - a classical allegro unhinged, its only semblance of sanity to be found in tiny diversions to a calmer and more formal music. There is devilish energy in the fantastic rhythmic clarity of Giltburg's playing. But the bigger challenge was to come: the profound calm of the ensuing Arietta with its extraordinary heaven-bound variations. Who could imagine that something as serious as the opening processional could spawn something as crazy as that bizarre boogie-woogie variation? Giltburg might have accentuated its eccentricity a little more, I think, and swung it more audaciously, just as he might have found even more acute pianissimi and a sense of weightlessness and formlessness in the ethereal final variation. I was still conscious of the barlines.



One day I may not be, but for now Scriabin's Sonata No.4 in F-sharp aspired to the same lofty regions and Giltburg looked and sounded well at home amongst its heady, diaphanous harmonies. He was simply dazzling in the second movement prestissimo which is entirely about rhythmic scintillation and mastery of the extremely tricky contradiction between lightness and weight. He did.



No doubts, either, about his Rachmaninov and a storming performance of the massively symphonic Etude-Tableau No.7 in C minor. The sonorities here were magnificently rich and commanding with the grimly insistent second idea marking time towards the climactic panoply of funeral bells - a moment bigger than either piano or hall could contain.



Then to Schumann's quirky, playful, touching comedy of life and love - Carnaval. Here, in marked contrast to the Beethoven at the other end of the programme, there was joy and a spirit of delight in the madness, something which Giltburg with his amazingly mature sensibilities clearly relished exploring. He's the real thing, alright.

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