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Passion and yearning

Sujeeva Hapugalle gives a piano recital
at London's Leighton House,
reviewed by MALCOLM MILLER


Visiting from San Francisco, the young pianist Sujeeva Hapugalle offered an enjoyably varied programme from the romantic repertoire in the illustrious surrounds of Leighton House on 19 September 2005. Born in Sri Lanka, Sujeeva Hapugalle studied at the Royal College of Music with David Parkhouse, and recently moved to San Francisco, California.

On this occasion her delicate touch well suited the opening work, Schubert's Impromptu in B flat major D 935, that set a relaxed and poetic tone for the main fare, including a major sonata in each half of the programme. In Beethoven's D minor Op 31 No 2, she displayed assured structural control in the first movement with its mysterious arpeggios, explosive outbursts and eerie recitatives. There was a melodic resilience to the Adagio, with its quizzical ostinato octaves, and despite some rather generous rubato, the finale achieved a fine element of suspense and momentum.

Hapugalle's immediacy of phrasing enhanced her tone, which benefited Schumann's Papillons, in which the mercurial contrasts of mood led with a sense of narrative purpose to the contrapuntal denoument, with technical demands well managed despite some over-pedalling and uneven textures. Chopin's Scherzo No 2, dramatically paced, with the lyrical element allowed to flow freely, formed a fiery finale to the first half of the programme.

Suitably refreshed, the audience were regaled with a second half starting with the evocative colours of 'Seville' from Albeniz's Suite Española, which captured a sparkling spirit with its guitar-like strumming effects. It was balanced by the more serene impressionistic soundscapes of 'Une Barque sur l'ocean' from Ravel's Miroirs, in which some of the repetitive textures had a mesmeric effect, forming a calm prelude to the final work, Chopin's Sonata in B minor Op 58.

If Miss Hapugalle had earlier played from the heart, there was here an extra measure of passion and yearning. The second movement in particular realised its 'molto vivace' marking with considerable agility, contrasting mellow warmth of tone in the slow central section with the fleet-fingered filigree of the outer sections. The Largo's majestic opening led to moments of sonorous beauty while there was plenty of fizzing energy to the concluding Presto. Occasional memory slips and technical blips aside, Sujeeva Hapugale's playing radiated an inward conviction that was responsive to the music's inner intensity.

Copyright © 28 September 2005 Malcolm Miller, London UK



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