Author Topic: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov  (Read 713 times)

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Offline Todd

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New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« on: November 15, 2020, 07:01:13 AM »







One of the byproducts of having purchased all extant complete Beethoven piano sonata cycles I could get my mitts on for the last fifteen years is that when this anniversary year rolled around, I did not need to bother with reissues, and instead I could focus on new cycles.  Alas, this year has not seen as many new cycles as I had hoped for.  Starting at the end of last year, there's been Tirimo, Levit, Say, Lifschitz, and now Minsoo Sohn and Konstantin Scherbakov.  (In the space of less than twelve months, I went from having zero cycles by pianists named Konstantin to two, so there's that.)  Daniel Barenboim's fourth cycle will arrive soon enough, as will Irina Mejoueva's second.  I figured I might as well see how these two newcomers fare against each other, just because.  Rather than doing the hyperdetailed summation, I'll go light and quick, sonata by sonata.

Op 2/1

Sohn - Safe and steady in the opening two movements, with a bit of drama in the third.  The Prestissimo has more bite, but Sohn holds back.  Nice weight, clarity of voices, and poised throughout.  Literal and direct.

Scherbakov - More dynamic variability and rubato, and more ear catching accenting.  Greater clarity of voices, with accompaniment that remains clear at all times without sounding obtrusive.  The Prestissimo is faster and more fiery.  More interventionist, but well within standard interpretation bounds.  (He ain't no Pienaar, for instance.)

Winner: Scherbakov
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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Offline Todd

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2020, 05:43:09 AM »
Op 2/2

Sohn - The Allegro vivace sounds peppy, with bright right hand playing.  The middle movements both display more of the safe and steady playing from the first sonata, though Sohn's dynamic range pleases.  The Rondo lives up to its grazioso designation as Sohn plays with a light, tuneful effortlessness, except in the sharper but not too heavy second section. 

Scherbakov - The Allegro vivace sounds peppy here, too, but with more rubato.  Scherbakov emphasizes the left hand in some phrases, and otherwise peppers his playing with more individuality.  The Largo compels, with wide dynamic range and a nuanced quiet playing, while the Scherzo has fast, fun playing in the outer sections and a kind of too slow trio.  The Rondo sounds fun in the opening material, but in the second section, Scherbakov adds some purposely clunky playing that doesn't really work.  Still, good.

Winner: Scherbakov
« Last Edit: November 16, 2020, 05:44:59 AM by Todd »
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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Offline Todd

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2020, 05:55:24 AM »
Op 2/3

Sohn - Sohn starts things off with a nicely scaled and even more nicely paced Allegro con brio, with cleanly dispatched opening double thirds.  The Adagio is serious and stately, with restrained tolling bass notes, while the Scherzo a bold, fast middle section flanked by serious, clean outer sections.  In the Allegro assai, Sohn delivers remarkably steady playing, though he never goes all-out. 

Scherbakov - Scherbakov starts with a more fluid, cleanly executed Allegro co brio, though the bass, as recorded, sound a bit bloated and not ideally defined.  That's of little consequence here.  The Adagio comes off a bit understated, with the tolling left hand notes a bit restrained.  In contrast, the outer sections of the Scherzo display particularly wide ranging dynamics in the controlled outer sections, and a zippy trio.  The Allegro assai gets the well executed but slightly reserved treatment. 

Winner: Sohn
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Offline Todd

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2020, 05:42:00 AM »
Op 7

Sohn - Sohn opens with a swift Allegro molto e con brio, with nice dynamic contrasts and steady, insistent left hand playing.  The Largo is slow and cool, but again, dynamics sound most appealing.  Both the Allegro and Rondo have the same no-nonsense, direct style.

Scherbakov - Scherbakov opens a bit slower, a but quieter, and bit more flexibly than Sohn, but the insistence and drive are not there.  The Largo has a more dramatic sound, with more and more varied tempo contrasts, while the Allegro and Rondo both display the greater variance of touch.  Nice, but not Sohn nice.

Winner: Sohn
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Offline Todd

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2020, 05:43:26 AM »
Op 10/1

Sohn - A measured ascending arpeggio starts off an almost museum grade Allegro molto e con brio, with everything perfectly placed but mostly cool.  The gentler playing about midway through sounds exceptionally nice, though.  The Adagio takes that slow playing from the first movement and extends it, and Sohn displays nuanced touch and an ability to maintain a slow musical line.  He finishes off with a vibrant Prestissimo. 

Scherbakov - Scherbakovs makes the ascending arpeggios leap, and then backs off quite a bit, but switches up dynamics effortlessly.  In the Adagio, Scherbakov plays with no little beauty and more flexibility than Sohn, but his rubato sort of detracts and he does not create the same long musical line.  Scherbakov positively rips through the Prestissimo.

Winner: Sohn
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Offline Todd

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2020, 05:47:46 AM »
Op 10/2

Sohn - Sohn delivers a fairly hard-hitting Allegro, with controlled tempo but huge dynamic shifts for the music.  It kind of startles, tbh.  The Menuetto sounds faux serious, but the left hand sforzandi have impact, and the Presto (with repeat) is fun and bubbly, and also just a smidge hard-hitting, with bass notes again popping out.

Scherbakov - Scherbakov infuses the Allegro with some real playfulness and fun.  Dig the clarity of voices, if not the less than ideally clear recording.  The Menuetto is light-serious, while the Presto, with repeat, is a hoot, all energy and exaggeration and a little but of effective embellishment.

Winner: Sohn
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Offline Todd

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2020, 06:38:14 AM »
Op 10/3

Sohn - In the first unambiguously great sonata, Sohn opens with an energetic Presto, with nice clarity, but it sounds firmly controlled.  And the dynamic range packs a wallop with the wick turned up.  His ability to hammer the notes with a steady tempo is most impressive.  The great Largo starts slow, somber, and restrained almost to a fault, but builds up to a towering climax.  The Menuetto and Rondo offer light contrast afterward, with the bright right hand playing in the Rondo a particular delight. 

Scherbakov - The Presto sounds quick and prankish, though the somewhat blubby bass starts to annoy.  Scherbakov's playing cannot really be faulted.  Scherbakov's Largo is notably shorter than Sohn's but it sounds less tense and dramatic, though some of the specific phrases and sections sound snazzier.  The last two movements offer lighter playing, though Scherbakov does throw in some depth charge left hand playing in the Menuetto.

Winner: Sohn
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Offline Todd

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2020, 06:51:54 AM »
Op 13

Sohn - Sohn starts with a slow, dramatic Grave, and a quick Allegro, where Sohn delivers some beefy bass tremolos, and almost leads with them.  The clarity of voices once again delights, and if not an exceptionally powerful or fast version, everything jells just right.  The cantabile sections of the second movement sounds lovely, but the second section has a slightly off-kilter left hand playing - nothing brazen, just different.  The concluding Rondo swaps to being led and dominated by melody, which is not to say left hand playing sounds weak or anything, and if highly polished and structured, it sounds just swell.

Scherbakov - Scherbakov's Grave is bass heavy but soft-edged, while the transition to the Allegro is tense, and the Allegro itself more so.  If the bass line is not as clean, and the dynamics not as wide as with Sohn, the effect is more exciting.  The Adagio is fairly conventional throughout, with a couple loud left hand outbursts the main items of note.  That written, it is very well done.  The Rondo, like the opener, is about energy and speed and momentum and scale.  While not as adventurous, execution is all here.

Winner: Scherbakov
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Offline Todd

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #8 on: November 23, 2020, 05:20:41 AM »
Op 14/1

Sohn - Pretty much by the book, with a quick, clean Allegro; a slow, expressive Allegretto; and a properly flowing, energetic Rondo with ample dynamic contrast.  Not a note out of place.

Scherbakov - A very quick and chipper Allegretto, with hints of overt virtuosity thrown in, is followed by a slower Allegretto with more variability of touch and an Rondo with some nicely accelerated sections.

Winner: Scherbakov
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Offline Scion7

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #9 on: November 23, 2020, 06:28:53 AM »
Point of order, old man - why is this a 'New Testament Shootout'?  Are you implying these younger recordings are a sort of 'new' testament versus those of, say, Arrau?

Or is there a darker mystery at work here ... something so foul ... so sinister ... so demonic, that we would shrink back in horror rather than peer into the abyss?!?!!?!?!
The Germans, who make doctrines out of everything, deal with music learnedly; the Italians, being voluptuous, seek in it lively, though fleeting, sensations; the French, more vain than perceptive, manage to speak of it wittily; and the English pay for it . . . - Stendhal

Offline Todd

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2020, 06:36:43 AM »
Old Testament = Bach's 48.

New Testament = LvB's 32.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Offline Todd

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2020, 06:03:27 AM »
Op 14/2

Sohn - A lovely, lyrical Allegro with more steady left hand playing and bright right hand playing, followed by and Andante theme and variations that sounds crisp and bright and soothing in the quiet playing, satisfyingly hefty forte playing, and a hammered out final chord, while it ends with a delightful and cleanly articulated Scherzo.

Scherbakov - Scherbakov plays the whole thing a bit more quickly, with more dynamic and tempo flexibility, again, and he can and does play powerfully in the few instances where it is called for.  While quite effective, it lacks the sheen of perfectly structured perfection that Sohn's take displays.

Winner: Sohn
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Offline Todd

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2020, 05:58:23 AM »
Op 22

Sohn - Sohn plays the Allegro con brio with ample rigor 'n' vigor, and clean lines.  A few times, he subtly deploys rapid fire diminuendo, or a slightly startling transition that makes one wonder if the recording is edited, but it's not like traditional editing slips; it sounds genuine.  He takes the Adagio con molto espressione at a steady, pleasant - in the best way - overall tempo, pedals just the right amount and delivers a strangely steady and hypnotic movement.  The Menuetto is direct and effective, while Rondo has a lightness to the right hand playing that really gets one hooked, and left hand playing that offer grunt when needed. 

Scherbakov - Scherbakov delivers a more virtuosic Allegro con brio, rushing some passages, and delivering some pointed staccato to go with that nice dynamic range.  The Adagio likewise gets pushed a bit, which sounds fine, but like the opener it seems more sectionalized as opposed to Sohn's more big picture take.  The Menuetto includes three superbly well delivered sections, and the Rondo more or less flows along nicely enough, a couple pauses that stand out notwithstanding.

Winner: Sohn
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Offline JBS

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2020, 06:14:50 PM »
Old Testament = Bach's 48.

New Testament = LvB's 32.

A BTW question: do you know who first came up with that OT/NT comparison?

Hollywood Beach Broadwalk

Offline amw

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #14 on: November 25, 2020, 06:19:01 PM »
Hans von Bülow.

Offline JBS

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #15 on: November 25, 2020, 06:52:34 PM »

Hollywood Beach Broadwalk

Offline Todd

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #16 on: November 26, 2020, 06:03:58 AM »
Op 26

Sohn - Sohn starts with a slow Andante theme, and for the first time throws in hefty rubato in the variations, to the point, when paired with the daringly slow tempo in places, of sounding willful.  The Scherzo, while not especially fast, shows Sohn willing to accelerate subtly and compellingly, and the clarity of voices is up there with the best.  Unexpectedly, the Funeral March comes off fast and tetchy, with nice, wide dynamics, and the Allegro end things more or less conventionally.

Scherbakov - Scherbakov plays the opening Andante and variations with more standard tempi, but he emphasize some more emphatic accenting instead.  The Scherzo scores big on dynamic contrasts, as does the more conventional Funeral March, though in places it sounds a bit chunky.  The Allegro closer sounds crisp and brisk.

Winner: Sohn
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Offline Todd

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #17 on: November 27, 2020, 06:35:33 AM »
Op 27/1

Sohn - The opening movement offers wide stylistic variation, with a generally slow movement punctuated by a fast third section, and the first repeat of the opening material is played almost like a variation.  The Allegro molto e vivace starts off almost dreamy and even the outbursts have softened edges.  The Adagio has an even dreamier overall sound, while the Allegro vivace has ample pep but sounds perfectly controlled with every dynamic shift and tempo change well planned inside an overarching view of the piece.

Scherbakov - Scherbakov goes for a quicker opening with wider dynamic range and more clipped phrasing, but the blubby, exaggerated bass does not appeal.  The Allegro molto e vivace sounds weightier and rhythmically vigorous, and less fantastic than Sohn's, while the Adagio is quicker and a bit too direct.  The Allegro vivace has nice pep and, predictably, oodles of oomph in the loud playing. 

Winner: Sohn
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Offline Todd

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #18 on: November 28, 2020, 06:49:21 AM »
Op 27/2

Sohn - Sohn goes steady and slightly unsettled in the Adagio sostenuoto, while the Allegretto sounds basically conventional.  In the Presto agitato, Sohn turns it on, playing with power, drive, scale, and clean articulation.  Fairly straight-forward overall, but extremely well done for this approach.

Scherbakov - Scherbakov goes for a quicker, tenser, louder than mostly pianissimo opener, then slows things down in the Allgretto, and the playing sounds sectionalized.  Scherbakov delivers a corker of a Presto agitato, with virtuosity and energy, and even subtlety.

Winner: Sohn

The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Offline Todd

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Re: New Testament Shootout: Minsoo Sohn v Konstantin Scherbakov
« Reply #19 on: November 29, 2020, 06:44:56 AM »
Op 28

Sohn - Sohn again goes for a steady opening movement, with distinct, clean bass, smooth melodic playing, and an ability to build to satisfyingly powerful fortissimo playing while displaying absolute control.  Sohn plays the Andante at a basically perfect tempo, but the playing sounds (purposely) jagged, and emphasizes the left hand playing.  While never slow overall, the pauses and long sustains of some notes really works well.  In the Scherzo, the perfectly controlled dynamic contrasts married to a fine rhythmic sense carries the day, while the darker, slower, more, well, pastoral Rondo unfolds with both clarity and ease, though Sohn cranks up the volume nicely when needed, and also slows things down and micromanages some passages with forensic precision.

Scherbakov - Scherbakov starts with a quicker Allegro, and while the bass playing sounds tight and insistent, it's too blubby too start and here and there overpowers.  Too, the playing is too tense without purpose.  There are other tense versions out there that work better.  The Andante keeps the slightly tense feel alive in the mostly right hand led out sections, and the playing sounds less sectionally differentiated.  Scherbakov is right at home in the Scherzo, delivering strongly accented and weighty outer sections and a playful trio.  He then closes out with a swift Rondo, where he delivers vast shifts in scale, from delicate and small and playful melody-centric playing to (near-) thundering climaxes.

Winner: Sohn
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General