Australian solo piano : ambience with depth

by Michael Johnson Michael Johnson is a music writer and critic with special interest in piano. He spent nine years on the board of the London International Piano Competition and has written extensively on music for leading publications, including the International New York Times, Clavier Companion, The Washington Times, American Spectator, International Piano and the website Facts & Arts. He spent four years in Moscow as a correspondent and also worked as a journalist in Paris, London and New York. 30.10.2017


Ukrainian-born Evgeny Ukhanov, based in Australia for the past 20 years, is an established performer of new music originating in his adopted homeland. Now he has teamed up with friend and Melbourne composer Alan Griffiths on a new CD of selections regrouped under the title “Introspection”. 

This isn’t “new music” in the contemporary sense but a coherent assemblage of Griffiths’ favorite solo piano pieces. Griffiths tells me he selected these compositions from 27 years of his archives to create a song cycle. It works marvelously. 

He lists as his influences Krzystov Penderecki, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and Prokofiev. In these seven compositions, the echos of great antecedents ring clearly. The over-all impression of this album is of pleasant ambient music but with a special depth of harmony and melody, impressive pianism by Ukhanov, and linkage of selections. 

One personal influence over the album is the premature death of the composer’s autistic brother Michael, to whom the opening piece, Reverie II, is dedicated. Griffiths explains in his program notes that he settled on a theme and developed it through a series of variations. The closing piece, “Till We Meet Again”, is in a reflective mood, but with his brother’s death in mind it carries “a tender poignancy”.

After several hearings, the “Touch of Tango” stands out as the most memorable selection. Griffiths writes in his program notes that he relied on  a four-bar syncopated rhythm that was not intended as a rigorous tango but reminded listeners of the tango bounce. 

Griffiths is an accomplished pianist but decided to work with Ukhanov on this debut album due to his own “deterioration of technique”. “We had a great rapport and we both admire Rachmaninoff,” Griffiths says. “Evgeny was able to draw out more from my repertoire than I thought possible. His interpretive skills are exceptional and added considerable value.” 

Griffiths plans a second album of solo piano and chamber works. His long-range plan is for five albums, including his film scores, an a cappella choral work and a larger orchestral work. 

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