Lost chords

STANISLAV Bunin has already established a substantial reputation, notably in Chopin, after winning a number of prestigious competitions, but his Arts Festival recital on Saturday evening was something of a curate's egg.

To start with the good points, Mr Bunin has an admirable technique with very clear articulation in fast passages, a lovely tone in the quieter pages and a good of dynamic shading, a recognition that there are levels between pp and ff, which is more than can be said for some pianists. These qualities were all very apparent in Beethoven's Pathetique sonata with which the recital began in promising fashion. Mr Bunin brought out the sonata's romantic aspirations, the imposing opening chords of the grave and the subsequent well-phrased allegro, not too hard driven but just right, pointing the way forward to the heroic sonata of 19th century and a world away from the sonatas of Haydn and Mozart.

But with hindsight was there a hint of mannerism in the melody of the andante? A suspicion of phrases being dwelt on a fraction too long, a shade too lovingly? If so, they were justified by the following Waldstein sonata (a late change of programme), in which the opening tempo was far too fast with the result that the brakes had to be applied heavily for the second subject with a loss of impetus. The adagio was nicely played, and the finale undoubtedly brilliant, but by then it was too late and the work as a whole never recovered from the ill-judged opening.

The second half was all Chopin, the main works being the second and third Scherzi, and for the most part was more successful. What may be a fault in Beethoven can be virtue in Chopin and with less in the way of long-term structure to worry about, Mr Bunin's approach brought its own rewards, especially in the drama of the second Scherzo which was probably the highlight of the evening. And yet one still felt that something was missing, that sense of fantasy or quasi-improvisatory feeling that marks the bestof Chopin was absent in spite of, or perhaps paradoxically because of, the loving attention given by Mr Bunin to individual details along the way, and the lovely B major nocturne from Op. 62 somehow went for nothing.

However, I don't want to give a completely negative impression, there was much to admire about Stanislav Bunin as well, and if with experience he can resist temptation to try and wring every last drop from each phrase he has the potential to be a significant talent in the future.

Stanislav Bunin (piano), Hong Kong Cultural Centre, February 19