Mykola Suk, Ukrainian-born and now American-resident, First
Prize winner at the 1971 Liszt-Bartók competition, plays Liszt
in the grand manner. Furthermore he thinks orchestrally or,
rather, floods his playing with such remarkable sonorities that
you might be forgiven for thinking him a one-man orchestra.
This is one of the most compelling and amazing performances
of the Sonata imaginable. I can imagine quite a few more rectitudinous
souls recoiling from the avalanche of extreme dynamics and pellucid
withdrawals of tone – but equally I can imagine others stunned
by the heady whiff of furnace and poetry summoned up by Suk.
It’s the kind of performance that begets superlatives, one way
His digital strength and his stealthy approach to architecture
are both palpable. His theatrical flair is also unbounded though
it’s never, in that dread Lisztian word, vulgar. No, his is
a performance at once overwhelming and characterful. It’s not
especially fast. The crux of the matter comes in the stitching
together – or stretching apart – of the music’s superstructure.
So for Suk, filigree is as important as the sense of powerful
projection. The dynamism of the playing, replete with cutting
off of phrases, overwhelming chordal flourishes, and sudden
vertiginous drops to treble-based refinement, is part of an
over-arching schema, and not the result of indulgence. Some
narrative phrases are certainly idiosyncratic, but the sense
of originality, drama, and fervour is all-enveloping. Maybe
in certain elements one can detect a degree of Horowitz’s trenchancy
and magnetism in this work, but the conception here is all Suk’s
own. Possibly too it’s telling, as recounted in the booklet
notes, that Suk hadn’t played the work in public for several
years. The tension is incredible, magisterial, overwhelming,
the few finger-slips immaterial.
Suk has played the Dante Sonata for many years. In fact he’s
already recorded it on TNC Recordings 1401. In this more recent
recital, from July 2005, he once again displays his exceptional
control of phraseology. He doesn’t trade speed for excitement,
instead he builds and relaxes the tension – exactly as he did
in the B minor Sonata – and achieves similarly remarkable results.
The three Hungarian Rhapsodies play to his sense of colour,
texture, refined introspection and vivid theatricality. They
were recorded between 2004 and 2007.
Suk is a Lisztian chevalier of the first order, and this disc
is a memorable example of his affiliation with the music, and
expounding of it. Tremendous!