The young Jordanian-Palestinian pianist Iyad Sughayer makes an excellent case for the piano music of Aram Khachaturian in this impressive debut album.
Most people are familiar only with Khachaturian’s ballet music for Gayaneh and Spartacus, which regularly appears in concert programmes, but he also wrote a considerable amount of piano music, though only the sparkling, technically-challenging Toccata (here despatched with finesse and élan by Sughayer) has made it into the recital repertoire. This disc is a very welcome opportunity to explore his rarely-played piano music.
Organised as a recital, the disc opens with the virtuosic and expansive E-flat Piano Sonata of 1961. Two big-boned, tumultuous outer movements are offset by a haunting, perfumed lyrical middle movement. Sughayer expertly handles the varying moods and technical demands of this work with a confident polish and a crisp direct sound.
The rest of the album comprises shorter works, including the charming Children’s Album, also known as The Adventures of Ivan. Originally written for pedagogical purposes, these appealing miniatures are by turns poignant, witty and playful, often infused with folk idioms, and Sughayer neatly catches their contrasting characters, elevating these pieces beyond teaching music with his expressive tone control and sensitivity to this music’s changing moods (attributes which are in fact evident throughout this disc).
The disc closes with the showpiece, the Toccata (1932), which Sughayer manages with an impressive aplomb. Overall, this disc is fine showcase for Iyad Sughayer’s talent and an excellent introduction to the piano music of Aram Khachaturian.