I discovered German-Ukranian pianist Igor Gryshyn, listening to soprano Olena Tokar sing on her album Charmes. Gryshyn accompanied her and the focus was clearly on the very talented Tokar.
Gryshyn’s solo album Transitions has followed and reveals his own brilliance, and love for composers, Viktor Kosenko (1896-1938); his 11 Études to be precise, and the better-known Alexander Scriabin, notably his 4 Préludes and Piano Sonata No.4 in F-sharp major.
Composer Alexander Kosenko was a modest fellow, which explains the lighter footprint he has made on Russian repertoire. I was not aware of his existence and how could I not have been, his Études are so alive on this album! Played one after the other, the bite-sized meals, unfold into a veritable feast!
The overall tone is exuberant and effusive. In Étude No 1 in G-sharp, Gryshyn puts in a pristine performance of rippling chromatic fluidity stretching the entire keyboard. I was intrigued by his Étude No 3 in B minor, where Chopin’s Funeral March was jazzed up and played agitato. Shades of effusive Rachmaninov could be heard in others. Étude No 10 slowed the pace, was properly funeral with its tolling pedal note accompanied by chords of remarkable beauty. I was reminded of Chopin’s Prelude in B Minor – with its slowing heartbeat.
In his early career, Scriabin was also influenced by Chopin. It was said that he slept with Chopin’s Preludes Op.28 tucked under his pillow! He distanced himself from Chopin later, but he liked the prelude as a form.
In contrast to Kosenko’s Études, Scriabin’s Preludes are plainer and shorter – but are nonetheless full of colour.
And yet it is with Scriabin’s Sonata No. 4 in F-sharp major, written around 1903, that you really see what the composer and pianist are capable of.
In the first few slow contemplative chords of the andante, played in the higher register of the piano, I was transported into star-studded space, the universe, Scriabin’s preoccupations at the time. The opening movement is jazzy, so modern. It’s no wonder jazz artists are constantly dissecting Scriabin scores. They see the tremendous potential of a music that transcends time and is heaven-sent!
The seamless shift into the fast development, the Prestissimo volando, is genius. I loved Gryshyn’s lightness of touch and his precision, necessary for this crazily fast section. And the passion and emotion Gryshyn releases in the dénouement shows an artist playing in the zone. In it, Gryshyn seems to grasp Scriabin’s rapturous, transcendental state, one which came from a deep love of life, of the universe. It’s a remarkable composition and a masterful performance by Gryshyn.
Transitions is highly recommended for Scriabin-lovers and for Gryshyn’s life-enhancing interpretation of Scriabin’s Sonata No.4 in B-minor.
https://www.orchidclassics.com/releases/orc100176-igor-gryshyn/ and other digital platforms.