Stoupel's extraordinary Sonatas by Rathaus and Shostakovich
"Rathaus’ musical language mixes the traditional with radical modernity. Some critics celebrated him, before he went into exile in 1932, as one of the greatest hopes of the 20th century. Others tore his works apart, and the public was also mostly hostile to them. But the expressive music should actually be better known today.
The first piano sonata has already been recorded, but the recording with Vladimir Stoupel seems to me to be the best of those currently available. The pianist plays the sonata, which can still be classified as late romantic, with great intensity and expressiveness. Especially fascinating is the Lento con espressione, in which Stoupel’s playing is very introverted. That is about 10 minutes of a gripping, deeply touching piano playing. The Third Sonata, whose tonal proximity to Scriabin the pianist emphasises in his booklet text is performed with a similarly glowing expression and, in addition, stupendous virtuosity.
On the second CD of this album, Stoupel proves himself to be a highly virtuoso performer of both Shostakovich sonatas. The one-movement first sonata is very effective, with contrasts that the pianist illuminates with maximum passion.
The Second Sonata, which is far less effective than the first one, needs an imaginative interpreter to sound effectively. Stoupel has the creative talent and the ability to make the work instinctively sound right in both its slow and virtuoso parts. There is nothing constructed or intellectually tuned in this performance. Stoupel has this phenomenal expressiveness and that confidence of accentuation, which distributes light and shadow over entire periods and forces the listener to fully experience the music."
The Person behind the Mask
A Shostakovich evening with Vladimir Stoupel
Der Tagesspiegel Berlin, Germany
"The opening movement of the Shostakovich Second Sonata is orchestrally conceived, and Stoupel veritably multiplied himself, with the strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion simultaneously in his flying fingers. He made the Largo into another soundscape, letting a lone person wander in nocturnal nature. In the Finale, an unpretentious children’s tune develops into an extended variation cycle: the pianist keeps the overview, so that the listeners can let themselves fall from one emotional state to the next."
Power Centers of Time, Mirrored, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany
"The main work of the evening was Igor Stravinsky’s unfortunately very seldom played Concerto for piano, wind band, double basses, and timpani from 1924. It very clearly highlights reminiscences of the music of the early eighteenth century, for example, when the first movement calls to mind the structure of a French overture, or when the piano’s sound – rhythmically complicated, dry, emotionlessly shaped – gives the impression of a harpsichord. In the outer movements, at least, expressiveness is allowed only here and there in the orchestra. Soloist Vladimir Stoupel mastered the task with exemplary artistic power and – especially important in this piece – utmost rhythmic precision."
“The One-armed of the World War, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
"Stoupel's concert in Frankfurt offered the opportunity to become acquainted with Schulhoff’s very ambitious and demanding Piano Suite for the left hand. We owe this to pianist Vladimir Stoupel, who played the five movements with subtle stylistic differentiation: from the beginning with the impressionistic timbres up to the percussive, toccata-like, and dissonant movements in bright expressionistic colors."
Der Tagesspiegel Berlin, Germany
Liberating Outbreak of Sound, Mittelbayerische Zeitung
“... The soloist in Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto was the pianist Vladimir Stoupel, who celebrated a brilliant success with his performance. He and the orchestra presented Liszt’s theme metamorphosesastransformationsof character, and right from the first measures showed the potential inherent in the unassuming beginnings of the music.Stoupel did not simply add filigree arabesques to the lyrical-soft chords in the woodwinds, but gave the tones weighted accentuations with which he already foreshadowed the heavily athletic developments of his piano part, where he later presented the octave and chordal passages sharply chiseled and angular. But Stoupel is also able to make music in a completely relaxed manner: in the lightly sketched leggie- ro, in lost-to-the-world, dreamy sections in which the participation of the orchestra almost seems forgotten, and also there where he caresses the canti- lena of the solo cello with gently sparkling playing.”
Hymn-like Finale, Märkische Oderzeitung
“Chosen for the Chopin homage was the E-Minor Piano Concert, op. 11, to whose orchestral exposition the musicians lent a truly Beethovenian passion. The playing of soloist Vladimir Stoupel, who gave every tone astonishing resoluteness, was exceedingly powerful. Playfullylight,but far from being kitschy, he proved himself to be a thinking, almost brooding Chopin advocate, who with his trillrich passage work also did not disappoint in terms of virtuosity. Dreamily he mused through lyrical regions, thundered up pathos with keyboard bravura – in short, with his nuanced touch, from cotton-soft to muscular, and his unbridled will to shape things, he proved himself to be a contrast-loving, clearly contouring painter of moods. He sang the larghetto in enchanting, glowing beauty as a nocturne full of inner luminescence. Enthusiastic!"
Mountain-Peak Tour with a View, Hessische Allgemeine Zeitung
Vladimir Stoupel with the Tchaikovsky Concerto in Kassel
“There is a trend toward standardizat- ion when it comes to the most well- known classical hits.That whichevery body knows has to sound the same each time. But it often gets exciting then when someone offers his own individual version.
In Vladimir Stoupel’s interpretation, Tchaikovsky’s famous B-Minor Piano Concerto not only had its own sonority. On the forty-minute musical mountain tour, the Ber- lin-based Russian with French citizenship took advantage of every liberty to linger, to enjoy the atmosphere, to then quicken the pace again in order to storm the peak at the end in a quick tempo. Stoupel played the heavy chordal towers at the beginning with forward- pressing élan, yet in the lyrical passa- ges he slowed the tempo and let the various episodes pass by in complete serenity, almost coming to a standstill – but without forfeiting tension because of it.
Stoupel did not emphasize virtuoso brilliance in this first movement. Unusual, however, was the tonal sensitivity with which he differentiated the rhythmical levels of the piano writing. The second movement began extremely slow. Here, too, Stoupel discovered tonal fields over which many pianists pass over without regard, and provided for strong contrasts in the prestissimo passages.
Only in the finale did Stoupel really get down to it with his virtuoso hands, and the octave cascades at the end came out as if chiseled in stone. For the thunderous applause in the sold-out Stadthalle, the soloíst reciprocated with the Autumn Song from Tchaikowvsky’s Seasons cycle, op. 37, which he played delightfully dreamy with nearly magical pianissimo colors.”
Journey to Pianistic Dreamworlds, Hessische Allgemeine Zeitung
Vladimir Stoupel’s Outstanding Piano Recital at the Kassel Musiktagen
“The concert with the Russian pianist Vladimir Stoupel, who is known for his “well-composed” programs, set a mark that colleagues who follow him will find difficult to surpass. Russian piano school: yes. Demigod of the keyboard: no. One can reduce Stoupel’s playing to this simplified formula. Framed by two works by Felix Men- delssohn, who, as is known, came from a Jewish family, were two other Jewish composers from the twentieth century and, as a premiere, five short pieces from a seasons cycle by Russian composer Olga Rajewa. Stoupel played Karol Rathaus’s Third Sonata and Erwin Schulhoff’s Third Suite for the left hand, both extremely complicated structures. At the beginning and end, however, stood Mendelssohn, whose piano works have always been a bit overshadowed by his symphonies, oratorios, and chamber music.
The pianist chose the Fantasia in F- sharp Minor, op. 28, and the Variations sérieuses, both highly virtuoso creations.It was interesting to observe how differently he approached the two works: the Fantasia with full intensity, reminiscent of Liszt, the Variations clearly more reserved and transparent. In the one as well as in the other, Stoupel immersed himself in this music, became completely engrossed in it, breathed with it, and emerged again, shortly catching his breath and only gradually regaining a smile, from the dreamlike self-absorption of his playing. An outstanding evening.”
Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany
“Franz Liszt's 2nd Piano Concerto was in the best of hands with Vladi- mir Stoupel. One rarely hears the delicate structure of the piece convey- ed so excellently in each and every note, exactly as in this Russian pianist's performance that evening.”
Harris Goldsmith, New York
“Bravo for a magical recital! What an ear for color, spacing, atmosphere, and what a superb sense of concentration, harmonic tension; and what an incredible dynamic range!”
Norddeutsche Neueste Nachrichten, Germany
“The most lasting musical impression was made when Russian pianist Vladimir Stoupel played Viktor Ullmann's Piano Concerto. For this, Stoupel received thunderous applause.”
Sunday News, PA
“Stoupel's nervy pianism and virtuosic edge provided imaginative renderings; the refinement of detail in his playing charges every note with energy, direction and meaning. His tone seems capable of any modulations of volume, any effect of color. The pianist's sensitivity to nuances of articulation and sonorities was brilliant. The concerto closed with cascades of sound, eliciting thunderous applause and multiple standing ovations from the audience.”
Il Roma, Italien
“Vladimir Stoupel is a pianist particularly careful to the quality of the sound.”
Neue Westfälische Zeitung, Germany
“Vladimir Stoupel is a sensitive sorcerer of sound.”
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany
“Unforgettable: Vladimir Stoupel.”
The New York Sun
“This was white-hot Romanticism, the finest realization of any work I have encountered thus far this season, it was so involving that I actually forgot to look at the fabulous view of Lower Manhattan.”
Der Tagesspiegel Berlin
“Stoupel induces an almost trance state in his listeners, and his pianist's personality sets musical standards.”
“Russian pianist Vladimir Stoupel presents one of the best complete editions of Scriabin’s piano sonatas. A groundbreaking interpretation.”
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany
“Vladimir Stoupel captivates by unifying such opposing qualities as attention to detail and regard for the whole, a delicate sensitivity for sounds and fervent virtuosity.”
Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten, Germany
“What was then demonstrated with Maurice Ravel's version for piano of his orchestral composition "La Valse" was at first glance piano acrobatics of the highest order.”