Brighton Year-Round 2019
Sohyun Park plays Prokofiev’s reduction of his Romeo and Juliet Ballet Op 64, and Busoni’s Sonatina No. 6, Bv284, the Carmen Fantasy.
Sohyun Park’s strikingly clear tonal palate draws her inexorably to Prokofiev and Busoni. Both tonal composers but with an astringent lyricism that Park revels in.
We get nearly all the pieces from Prokofiev’s reduction of his Romeo and Juliet Ballet Op 64 from 1937, save the first two, though as it happens there would have been time. So we start with the famed ‘Minuet’, full of spiky syncopations, move through the fresh Young Juliet and ‘Masks’ and on to the menacing ‘Montagues and Capulets’, often read as a potent of the shadows falling over Soviet Russia during the Terror.
Park enjoys a clear rhythmic pulse, a delicate edgy lyricism and clean projection. She’s able to bring out the ruminative ‘Father Lorenzo’ and the brief off-kilter scurry of ‘Mercutio’. Prokofiev’s great melodic gift evinced a peculiar affinity with off-beat waltzes, and ‘Lily dance of the maidens’ (where’s that in the original?, never mind it’s in the ballet) really does deliver that, spare and as beautiful as breath whistling over a glass flute.
Finally the long lingering ‘Romeo bids Juliet farewell’ comes across as a pulsing heartbeat lingering out its death by poison with a final sad trill, pushing the boundaries of delicate virtuosity.
Busoni’s Carmen Fantasy is just the last of six Busoni Sonatinas, one of two incorporating themes by other composers. Sonatina No. 6 BV284 aka Carmen Fantasy dates from 1920, the same year as Busoni’s mighty Toccata in A flat with its icy cascading opening; there’s a ghost of that here. The other is the anonymous Greensleeves. Busoni’s ‘Young Classicism’ manifesto of 1907 certainly signalled a change of direction, just as he also got to know Schoenberg and the Second Viennese School. There was mutual admiration but Busoni remained resolutely tonal, if powerfully individual. He’s still too little known.
Some of his pungent harmonies and high-registered lyrical adrenalin punches enter up on the keyboard’s top end, and its how we’re eased into the great Bizet themes, including the famous arias, leading through to the slowing heartbeat of the finale. It takes a different kind of sound-world, denser though similarly rinsed through with the early 20th century. It’s astringent like Prokofiev, though harmonies are denser, and no-one can quite imitate one of the three greatest melodists of the 20th century. Nevertheless, Busoni’s stamp of genius is in evidence, and hopefully Park might go on to explore Busoni, whose textures she splices and separates where necessary and seems thoroughly attuned to; and more Prokofiev like this.
An auspicious return of this pianist. She deserves a wide audience.