Igor Tchetuev, Wallace Collection, London

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The Independent Culture

Another Sunday-morning recital series at the Wallace Collection has started, the seventh since they were launched in 1997. The object is largely, though not exclusively, to give performers their London debut, although the chosen ones seem to have achieved some kind of distinction or recognition already, often abroad. Last Sunday introduced the Ukrainian pianist Igor Tchetuev to London. He won the prestigious Rubinstein Competition in Tel Aviv three years ago, though he is only 21 now. (He is, in fact, still studying – with Vladimir Krainev in Hanover.)

Without elaborating theories about what sort of pianists win competitions, Tchetuev's showing in the Long Picture Gallery of this lovely house didn't really suggest the sort of youngster who bowled them over in Israel. After all, they needn't have awarded a first prize at all, and he was, apparently, the audience's favourite, too.

Tchetuev played a programme of Chopin, Rachmaninov and Liszt, so no credit to him for imagination on that score. His performance of Chopin's B minor Sonata was a model of a kind – mellow and well- rounded but containing no surprises and rather detached. A London audience, spoilt for choice, has a right to expect something more in such familiar music. Perhaps Tchetuev thought that a Sunday- morning crowd – and it was a good crowd – hadn't the stomach for the first movement repeat, for he left it out. He introduced the final movement in a spirit of stealthy haste, as if saving himself for something broader and bolder later on. But it didn't quite happen.

Rachmaninov's Corelli Variations are increasingly popular with pianists, if only because we hear so many who are Russian-trained. They're rather like a set of piano studies – though far from exclusively technical – and very sharply characterised, though occasionally Rachmaninov seems to repeat himself (there are two "galloping" variations, for instance). The composer himself used to make cuts in response to the amount of coughing in the audience. There was very little on this occasion, yet after making Corelli's theme itself exceedingly slow and sad, Tchetuev did a lot less than he might to energise the various characters in which Rachmaninov disguised it.

He certainly has good fingers, as we heard in Liszt's "Feux follets", while "Chasse-neige" and the 10th of the Transcendental Studies were fluent and masterly. But not exactly thrilling. A very mainstream programme was rounded off with two popular encores – Liszt's third Liebestraum and Rachmaninov's B flat major Prelude. No surprises there, either.

Further recitals on 11, 18 & 25 Nov and 2 Dec (020-8423 4121)

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