Most concert pianists are like circuit tennis players

Most concert pianists are like circuit tennis players


norman lebrecht

February 15, 2016

Or so it says in the Lebrecht Album of the Week review on and openlettersmonthly.

Most concert pianists are like modern tennis players. They know that only two or three men and women are ever going to win the major tournaments, which leaves all the rest working harder each day in vain pursuit of an inhuman perfection and an inexhaustible hope.

The Russian-born Yevgeny Sudbin is a circuit pianist who, living in London and teaching at the Royal Academy, has yet to break top ten rankings. He’s a tremendous player of exceptional flair who has made recording for the past decade on an esoteric Swedish label, covering mostly Russian music. The reception has been enthusiastic, the major breakthrough elusive.

Might this be it?

Read on here.

Federer with mum



  • Kyle says:

    BIS is an “esoteric Swedish label”?!? A good deal of the repertoire they have recorded may fit the description, but BIS is surely among the most important and well-known independent, classical labels.

    • Frederick West says:

      And they have something rather special in Sudbin. Whilst some may baulk at his own programme notes (I don’t, they are no more esoteric than the flannel we have to suffer in record magazines) it’s refreshing to know something about the music and he certainly seems to know much.
      Here’s a pianist who genuinely knows his predecessors, listens to and enjoys their work.
      He is worth a trial of anyone’s money and BIS produce a ravishing, opulent and very realistic recorded sound.
      Good to watch too, none of this silly arm waving which seems to infected rather too many in the so-called top tier. He makes wise choices about how often he performs as well, too many have been tempted by the greed of the promoter or record label and come to grief.
      Good to see him reviewed and flagged up, he’s something special.

    • Holly Golightly says:

      This is very true. BIS is old news.

  • NYMike says:

    Check out the complete Mendelssohn Quartets recorded by the Eschers on BIS. None better!

  • debussyste says:

    It’s courageous to play medtner music which is not very well known instead of record the 2000 th version of the first Ballade of Chopin. I have been introduced to this music by a very promising french pianist at the Tchaïkovsky competition named Lucas Debargue and now I gradually discover all the work of Medtner.

  • Marc-Antoine Hamet says:

    Concert pianists are NOT like tennis players!
    If they are sincere artists, they seek to communicate their own voice.
    They choose a repertoire that they believe in.
    In the best cases they mature during a lifetime of performance and link to the public.
    Sport analogies have their limits and are simplistic ways of talking about the arts.
    My “top ten list” will always be different than yours, and it is very well like that! As we say in France: Des goûts et des couleurs, on ne discute pas. (There is no arguing about matters of taste, and on that we are once more in agreement.)

    • Ross says:

      “They choose repertoire that they believe in”.
      This statement is a can of worms. I would say there are many who promote obscure repertoire not at all because they believe in it, but for the survival of their career.

    • Frederick West says:

      Maybe NL was referring to the interminable grunting that some of them engage in as they huff, puff and groan through their performances.

  • Will Duffay says:

    Bis an ‘esoteric’ label? I’m not sure what that means, but given they’ve released dozens of extremely well-reviewed and popular Bach cantata discs, plus all those Lahti Sibelius discs, that does seem a strange description. Bach and Sibelius are not esoteric in my book. (But to recognise Bis’s status would be to admit that the recording apocalypse announced by NL many years ago has still yet to arrive…)

  • Francis Crociata says:

    First, thank you for calling attention to Sudbin’s just-released. Medtner-Rachmaninoff collection. The Medtner works–and especially the Sonata–are all you claim for them, and the Rachmaninoff performances add something to understanding–which given his over-exposure in the marketplace–is saying something.

    You are right about the difficulty for even pianists of the accomplishment of Sudbin making a career. However, he is still luckier than many. In addition to his seemingly (and thankfully) open ended recording relationship with BIS–which includes orchestral collaborations–he has a special relationship with the Minnesota Orchestra and their marriage-made-in-heaven music director Osmo Vanska. Their Beethoven cycle called to mind Alicia DeLarrocha’s with Andre Previn. And, if you aren’t familiar with Sudbin start with his recording of the first (of three) version Rachmaninoff’s Fourth Piano Concerto–which makes the case that it is distinct enough from the final version to warrant a life of its own. It’s paired with the Medtner Second Concerto and a couple of gorgeous Rachmaninoff solos–including Sudbin’s transcription of the song Floods (aka Torrents) of Spring.

  • esfir ross says:

    From my experience attending mediocre Subdin recital when he had memory lapses and not very profound interpretation of 2 Chopin Ballades and the rest of program. He’s not even in second top tens.

  • DJ says:

    Sudbin is one of several such pianists, and as he is now championed by the owner of BIS, he is bound to become a top ten. The other obvious one of course a Brit, so not as interesting to you. He has been totally ignored by the UK music establishment all his career, but there are a few enlightened souls around now who actually know what they are listening to, so perhaps he will at last get the recognition he deserves. His name? Jonathan Plowright. (and no, it’s not me!)