RECORDING OF THE MONTH, Music Web International, May 2013 by Guy Aron

Occasionally artists come along who play with a maturity that belies their age. Yehudi Menuhin was one example. His original recording of the Elgar concerto, which was made while he was still in his teens, shows an understanding that someone of his age could not be expected to have. I would put Inesa Sinkevych in the same category.

Sinkevych studied in her native Ukraine, Tel Aviv, Chicago and New York with pianists such as Alexander Volkov and Solomon Mikowsky. Judging from the cover photograph, she looks still to be in her twenties, but has found time for the usual competition awards and a Doctor of Musical Arts from the Manhattan School of Music. Her choice of repertoire goes against the stereotype; one might expect a young pianist to be more interested in showing off her virtuoso chops with Rachmaninov and Liszt. In this case, however, one would be quite wrong, because this disc shows her to be a Schubertian of real distinction. The selection makes a well-planned recital, starting with the charming Twelve German dances, and ending with the great A major Sonata, D. 959.

Let me start with a cavil: some of the Twelve German dances, D. 790, had a bit too much rubato for my taste. These brief pieces are only about a minute in duration, and some feel a bit over-cooked. The Hungarian Melody, D. 817, made a great impression at one of Paul Lewis’ Schubert recitals in Melbourne last year. Sinkevych is steadier, and brings out the work’s quasi-Oriental character with her wide and attractive range of tone colours. The Adagio, D. 612, is an early, rather Mozartean piece showing the young Schubert’s skill at elaborating a melody. The Impromptu, Op. 142, No.4, is much more familiar. The trills are played with great clarity, and the long crescendo powerfully shaped; the return of the main melody brings a sense of a journey renewing itself. Sinkevych gives all these works a full-blooded treatment, with nothing tentative about her playing. She combines a crystalline tonal range in her right hand with quite a firm line in the left; the latter is always applied with restraint.

The main event is the Sonata which I felt was quite outstanding. This piece has perhaps the widest emotional compass of any of Schubert’s sonatas, by turns playful, vehement, bitter and radiant. Sinkevych really finds her range in this work; like Sviatoslav Richter, everything she does relates to the whole. Along with her wide tonal palette, she brings just the right combination of momentum and relaxation to Schubert’s long paragraphs. In this I feel she shades Paul Lewis, whose playing in this repertoire I find lacks expansiveness. The strength of her left hand pays dividends in the Andantino. This opens in a desolate mood which gives way to a towering central episode: a fit of cosmic rage that casts a shadow over the whole work. The genie is right out of the bottle here and Sinkevych does not short-change us on the work’s emotional depths. Schubert follows this devastating movement with a jaunty scherzo and an expansive sonata-rondo, both richly characterised.

The great Russian pianist Elisabeth Leonskaya is frequently illuminating in Schubert; her understated manner has great naturalness and humility. After Sinkevych, however, her D.959 seemed rather plain, and failed to hold my attention. As one would expect, Sinkevych’s technique is well up to all the demands that this sonata poses. What is more unusual – and more moving – is the sureness of her interpretation; she seems to be allowing the music to speak through her.

Inesa Sinkevych has issued this disc on her own label. Listeners who are reluctant to buy such releases will miss out on something really special. It contains extremely fine Schubert playing, and the piano sound is just as good, clear and with excellent colour and dynamic range.

“THE PROMISE OF GREATNESS TO COME” JWR Review, by S. James Wegg, February 6, 2013

Every time a new artist comes my way either by CD or in person, there is an extraordinary feeling of anticipation: will she/he be a work in progress, not-quite-ready-for-prime-time, mature beyond his/her years or a burgeoning master-in-waiting? From this disc of delectable Schubert works, Inesa Sinkevych serves notice that she may well qualify for the last category: greedily, I most certainly hope that this early promise will be fulfilled.

The Twelve German Dances reveal much. A special affection for the composer is demonstrated by including these miniature gems in the program. In the early going there is a slight affectation in the delicate lines that, hopefully, will prove to be just a passing phase of expression. By the third dance, the ear is rewarded with a wonderfully woven texture and a vrai pianissimo: less is always so much more. Many more times, Sinkevych mines the details and subtext through understatement in ways that few others dare.

From the eighth (with its oh-so-inviting magical lines) through the triumphant finish, the sense of flow, inevitability and upper register ring whet the appetite for more.

Immediately there is a marvellous feeling of push- and-pull in Hungarian Melody which has a lot to do with the pianist’s realization that changes of mode require a special treatment and touch. Indeed, Sinkevych brings an all-too-rare variety of weight/wait to the key harmonic shifts, be they driven by true leading notes or wonderfully unexpected excursions to nearly related tonalities. Merci mille fois.

Trusting the art to speak more for itself rather than forcing it into garments that don’t quite fit would improve the Adagio in E Major. Yet the beautifully rendered changes of register more than make up for that slight blemish and the final measures readily slip away into contented memory.

The ever-familiar F Minor Impromptu found the magical tempo, was delightfully coy and infused with a compelling variety of touch, coming as a heady breath of fresh air before the major offering of the set.

In many components of the Sonata In A Major, Schubert appears to be paying homage to Mozart (deceptive simplicity in line and ornamentation), Haydn (masterful use of silence for extraordinary dramatic/harmonic effects) and Beethoven (the first theme of the “Andantino” threatens to blossom into the “Allegretto” from Symphony No. 7—also centring on “A”).

Sinkevych brings a valid interpretation to the extended work and is particularly effective in the full-throttle segments that find their way into every movement. Quibbles are few and far between. Nonetheless, when the balancing element of arid staccato finds its way into the mix (e.g., in the transition to the legato second subject of the “Allegro”), she will have a vital arrow in her quiver of style, bridging the gap between the Classical and Romantic palettes of texture and tone. As well, when the exposition repeat of the “Allegro” is taken, listeners will be treated to all of the composer’s ideas (the transition back is a wee marvel all to itself) and better set the stage for one of Schubert’s most inventive developments.

Grasping the overarching structure and purpose (that so much music could be built from “just” an octave…) is Sinkevych’s strength, allowing the music to move steadily forward—readily erasing barlines in favour of deeply personal expressions of rarefied art.

On to the next! The next recording from this talented performer eagerly awaited. JWR