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CARESSING HANDS

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Andrejs Osokins at London's
St Martin-in-the-Fields,
heard by JULIAN JACOBSON

 

The young Latvian pianist Andrejs Osokins, worthy winner of the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe's 2008 Intercollegiate Competition, gave his prizewinner's recital at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, UK, on 1 May 2009. Moreover it was a double Mayday celebration as Osokins had been awarded a very impressive third prize in the London International Piano Competition just a few days earlier.

Andrejs chose to repeat the two Beethoven works with which he had won the Intercollegiate Competition: the last Bagatelle of the Op 126 set and the towering and ultimately transcendental C minor Sonata Op 111, Beethoven's crowning essay in the form he had brought to perfection. He completed his programme with two of Liszt's Liebesträume, the somewhat faded E major No 2 and the ever-popular A flat No 3. I reviewed his Intercollegiate triumph, so I was fascinated to see how his interpretations might have evolved.

Latvian pianist Andrejs Osokins at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London on 1 May 2009. Photo © 2009 Harry Atterbury
Latvian pianist Andrejs Osokins at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London on 1 May 2009. Photo © 2009 Harry Atterbury

A prize at an international competition can be a mixed blessing: along with the glory and increased confidence can come a greater pressure to live up to one's success. Osokins' opening Bagatelle was slightly unsettled and less 'inward' than I remembered it from before. But much of the Sonata was convincing: well thought-out, completely 'on message' and passionately engaged. The first movement had gained in both expressive freedom and structural cohesion, with a much more telling coda; a few minor slips probably reflected the sheer amount of repertoire Osokins had just had to play for the London competition. In the 'Arietta' second movement (there are only two), Osokins occasionally seemed unwilling to hold the quieter dynamics as long as Beethoven directs, giving a slightly restless feel to this most serene of movements, and I found the closing pages rather too fierce for my taste; that inexpressibly moving coda should surely glow rather than burn. Yet he caught the 'cosmic dance' of the third variation much better than before, in spite of the odd moment of discomfort, and throughout the whole sonata one felt the same powerful intellect in active control of Beethoven's structure and pacing.

Liszt must have been one of the greatest of all Beethoven players, even if he kept his performances largely for fellow musicians (Berlioz, Wagner) rather than his vast, adoring public. His E major Liebestraum had all the swooning, perfumed freedom one could wish for under Osokins' caressing hands. Conversely the inescapable A flat piece, taken for once at a true Allegro tempo, gained a great deal in strength and cohesion from Osokins' toughly anti-sentimental approach. Responding to warm applause from the packed church, Andrejs offered more Liszt, his performance of the transcription of Schumann's song 'Widmung' almost convincing me, in the strength and characterisation of his reading, that the piece is worth playing. That probably says more about me than about Liszt: yet I hope to hear this superb young pianist, still studying with Hamish Milne at the Royal Academy of Music, in some bigger and real Liszt, as well as more Beethoven, at an early opportunity!

Senior Warden Maurice Summerfield (right) presenting the Worshipful Company of Musicians' Beethoven Medal to Andrejs Osokins at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 1 May 2009. Photo © 2009 Harry Atterbury
Senior Warden Maurice Summerfield (right) presenting the Worshipful Company of Musicians' Beethoven Medal to Andrejs Osokins at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 1 May 2009. Photo © 2009 Harry Atterbury

Alberto Portugheis, Vice Chairman of the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe, was on hand to introduce Mr Maurice Summerfield, Senior Warden of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, who presented the Beethoven Medal of the Company to Andrejs as part of his prize. Also present to support the event was Dr Andreas Prindl CBE, a past master of the Worshipful Company.

Copyright © 14 May 2009 Julian Jacobson,
London UK

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ANDREJS OSOKINS

LATVIA

BEETHOVEN INTERCOLLEGIATE PIANO COMPETITION

BEETHOVEN PIANO SOCIETY OF EUROPE

ST MARTIN-IN-THE-FIELDS

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN

FRANZ LISZT

HAMISH MILNE

ROYAL ACADEMY OF MUSIC

ALBERTO PORTUGHEIS

WORSHIPFUL COMPANY OF MUSICIANS

BEETHOVEN MEDAL

LONDON

UNITED KINGDOM

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