Home > Reviews > Live Reviews > 19/11/2011 | Mikhail Rudy – Wimbledon Festival, London

19/11/2011 | Mikhail Rudy – Wimbledon Festival, London

Melanie Spanswick


The 2011 Wimbledon Music Festival has provided world class musicians in the leafy South West London suburb. Festival venues are spread across the town. St John’s Church, Spencer Hill, was the setting for Saturday night’s celebrity recital featuring Russian concert pianist Mikhail Rudy. Rudy is an international star pianist and it is quite a coup for the festival to attract such high calibre artists.

This much anticipated concert offered a unique experience. The first half was dedicated to Franz Liszt (celebrating the bicentenary of the Hungarian composer’s birth). Liszt’s music has certainly been heavily featured in most concert halls this year.

Rudy’s selection began with the beautiful Sonetto 104 Del Petrarca taken from the second volume of Années de pèlerinage. The nocturne-like work was given rich colour but the performance was a little hurried and often over pedalled thus missing the anguish and pathos reflected in the Sonnet. Rudy then launched immediately into Liszt’s arrangement of Wagner’s Liebestod from the opera Tristan and Isolde; more time to breathe would have allowed us to wallow in Wagner’s sublime orchestral climaxes and chromatic episodes. The epic B minor Sonata was played with great gusto, force and power. Rudy demonstrated his impressive technique and sound but, again, the performance tended to be over pedalled and not always rhythmically stable.

After a brief interval to reset the stage, we were treated to Mussorgsky’s dramatic masterpiece, Pictures at an Exhibition. This was to be no ordinary Pictures at an Exhibition; the performance was accompanied by animated paintings and drawings by the Russian artist Kandinsky. Mikhail Rudy had unearthed Kandinsky’s original design for a theatrical staged version of Pictures at an Exhibition which was performed in 1928. The original drawings and sketches are kept in the Pompidou Centre in Paris and after careful examination, Rudy set about creating an updated version by collaborating with an expert animation company.

The results were stunning; Rudy played in perfect coordination with the film and Kandinsky’s paintings quite literally soared (on a large screen) above the stage. However, the animations never upstaged the music; they were often simple, abstract images which were sometimes humorous, occasionally ironic and always tasteful. In Mussorgsky’s dazzlingly spectacular score, we witnessed Rudy’s most inspired playing. He revelled in the rich chromatic language; whether depicting the Russian witch of death, Baba-Yaga and The Hut on Fowl’s Legs or skipping through the playful scherzo, Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks. After the last pealing bells of the Great Gate of Kiev, Rudy was given a tumultuous reception and he treated us to a reprise of a couple of movements. The last encore, Chopin’s Nocturne in D flat major, provided a tranquil serene close to an enjoyable evening.