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Colin Clarke
Fanfare, January 2011

Ukraine-born Antonii Baryshevskyi won both first prize and the contemporary music prize at the 2009 Jaén International Piano Competition in Spain. He has been successful also in a number of other competitions, including the Fourth Enescu Competition (1999) and the Vladimir Horowitz International Piano Competition (Kiev) in 2005.

The first Scarlatti sonata (given with three different catalog numbers) receives an affectionate reading. Baryshevskyi makes no apologies for the fact he is playing on a concert grand. Sustaining pedal is used to good effect (at times, though, there do appear to be pre-echoes of Ravel in the E Major). If all is good (but with nothing special) here, the Ravel itself (La Valse) introduces the listener to Baryshevskyi’s true talent. Textures are appropriately veiled but never just undefined. Baryshevskyi’s technique is entirely up to Ravel’s demands, and he projects the sparkling heart of the waltz superbly. His strength lies in fingerwork, which can clarify the most congested of Ravel’s textures. The frenzied climax is breathtaking.

Debussy’s second book of Images provides some respite. Baryshevskyi’s Debussy is delicate yet without the innate understanding that, say, Bavouzet (Chandos) brings. Baryshevskyi’s goldfish seem rather lethargic; they do not sparkle, in fact they sound decidedly tired.

Daniel Mateos (b.1977) is a name new to me. His Orion was the test piece at the 2009 Jaén Competition. It is a demanding piece of modernist bent, but not difficult to follow, and very involving. Baryshevskyi gives a confident account. It would be good to hear him in more contemporary repertoire.

Baryshevskyi plays the 1931 revision of Rachmaninoff’s Second Sonata. The way Baryshevskyi plays it, it is as if he is attempting to emphasize the work’s newfound concision. There is little dawdling. He also revels in the typically Rachmaninoff bell references. There is also no doubting the sheer aplomb with which Baryshevskyi dispatches the final pages. It is stunning playing.

Finally, the Petrushka pieces. Somehow, the first piece fails to transport this listener to Russia, and it is here that one becomes aware that Baryshevskyi’s technique is human, not superhuman. His sense of the theater is very evident in the very gestural second tableau (“Chez Pétrouchka”), although he loses some momentum in the final tableau (“La Semaine grasse”). This is not yet a fully formed interpretation, and it was brave of Baryshevskyi to commit it to disc at this point, especially given the (Pollini-led) competition.

Naxos’s recording is forward and involving.

James Harrington
American Record Guide, November 2010

This is a knuckle-breaking debut recital from a young Ukrainian pianist, and the program portends a promising future for Antonii Baryshevskyi. He has won many piano competitions, most recently in 2009 the Jaén Prize International, whose logo appears on the cover of the booklet. The competition’s name is also in large red print, and a whole page of the booklet is devoted to its history. This debut recital was recorded in just one day at the Conservatory of Music in Jaén, Spain, probably with the support of the competition.

Beginning with some very engaging Scarlatti, we are immediately aware that this is a pianist with considerable talent. Ravel’s piano transcription of La Valse has long been regarded with fear by most pianists, in the same way as Gaspard de la Nuit is. I would not call this performance effortless, but it is exciting and quite effectively played. Next come some beautiful Debussy and a futuristic, space-adventure influenced Orion, composed by Daniel Mateos specifically for the Jaén Competition. Finally come two of the most demanding 20th Century piano repertoire staples. The Rachmaninoff Sonata 2 (1931 revision) gets a straightforward performance, maybe a little too careful, but quite acceptable. There are a few finger slips towards the end, and a little backing off at the end of some phrases that I would find perfectly acceptable in concert but would have liked the pianist to fix in a recording.

Stravinsky’s Petrouchka Suite is now accepted as one of the most definitive ways to show your stuff. I recall a very memorable recital at Carnegie Hall when Pollini played this work (his recording is almost universally recognized as the greatest) and the stage seats all appeared to have Juilliard piano students staring intently at the great Italian pianist with their mouths open. Unfortunately, Baryshevskyi is not in the same league yet. He begins well, but by the final movement he seems to be running a little low of steam. To use a literary analogy, he plays in short sentences rather than full paragraphs, and there a more than a few typos. Still, he is extremely talented and someone to watch for in the future.

Gary Higginson
MusicWeb International, October 2010

When I first looked at the contents of this generously filled CD the programme reminded me somewhat of a Wigmore Hall recital. The impression was underlined by the sequence starting with two fleet-of–foot Scarlatti Sonatas. Then I looked more carefully. Neither La Valse nor the Rachmaninov Second Sonata are works which debutants take on with anything approaching alacrity. No, Antonii Baryshevskyi (b.1988)—who until now, I am ashamed to say, I had not heard of - is something rather more special.

First his biography which is given the booklet. Amongst his prizes is one from his homeland, the Ukraine, where he is the holder of a scholarship called, extraordinarily enough, Man of the Year. He won First Prize in the Fourth Performer-Composer International Piano Competition in St. Petersburg in 2004 and amongst other prizes first prize and Contemporary Music Prize at the 51st Premio Jaén International in Spain in 2009. This recording celebrates that competition. Included in the programme is a new work by Malaga-born Daniel Mateos: Orión. As the landscape in that part of Spain can be somewhat lunar for much of the year, the musical soundscape of this work is often harsh and brittle. This is exacerbated by the close and at times airless recording which made me continually fiddle with the volume control. Orion is one of the largest and most conspicuous constellations in the night sky and Mateos’s piece is at once both blindingly glaring and mysterious. It was written especially for the Jaén Competition.

Following Ravel’s La Valse in its piano version I found that I heard more of the detail than in any other recording...he tackles Debussy with great sensitivity. His Cloches in the first of the Images (Book II) rings out with, if I may use an oxymoron, a muffled clarity in a slower than usual performance. The atmosphere of descending Moonlight in the second is captivating. Poissons d’Or has a quixotic motion but the forte passages are sometimes rather heavy-handed.

It’s in the Russian repertoire that Baryshevskyi is really at his best and this Rachmaninov Secod Sonata is an excellent choice. It is a three movement work revised at almost the same time as the Third Symphony, but originally from 1913. The second movement, which rises to an impassioned climax has, on either side a typically romantic and moving melody. I love Konstantin Scherbakov’s singing tone on Naxos (8.554669)...Nevertheless Baryshevskyi is controlled and impassioned and it is hard to fault his overall reading.

We end with a bang. Baryshevskyi can be his virtuoso self in Stravinsky’s Three Movements from ‘Petrushka’. I love the crispness and the touch of rubato he discovers in the opening Danse russe. This is often quite percussive music and the lack of warmth in the recording helps this piece to ‘shine’ through. Terrific showmanship helps to carry off this astonishingly difficult score and this is as good a rendition as you will ever hear...taken as a whole this [is] a fine and musically well-balanced recital. It acts as a superb calling-card by a (very) young pianist who is here to stay and who will make a mark of his own in time.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2010

The debut recital the Ukrainian pianist, Antonii Baryshevskyi, follows on his success in the Spanish ‘Jaen Prize International Piano Competition 2009’ and is shaped to show his enviable virtuosity. Typical of those programmes beloved by juries around the world who have the pious hope of finding a soloist who can be all things to all men. To reach this point Baryshevskyi has been entering competitions for the past ten years, and here offers his technical credentials in the massive Rachmaninov Second Sonata. It is played in the revised 1931 version, and is tempestuous, red-blooded and wide in dynamics, though just a little short of affection in the quieter passages. I also much warm to the outgoing account of Ravel’s La Valse, and he pounds his way convincingly through the competition’s test piece, Daniel Mateos’s Orion. A highly demanding score, with its long passages of unremitting fortissimo, it may have told the jury something, thought I cannot think what. He is not really yet into Debussy’s Second Book of Images, for though the playing is immaculate and he has the feeling for the slow pulse of Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut, the phrasing throughout is still looking for inner inspiration. His two Domenico Scarlatti sonatas are at an early stage with the three movements from Stravinsky’s Petrouchka better suited to his technical brilliance and physical stamina. The recording reveals much inner detail, and at times a little too much in his Stravinsky. A pianist with much potential.

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