An evening with Gleb Stepanov & Kenneth Teh

A guest cello recital took place in Le Quadri Ballroom of UCSI North Wing on a Thursday evening. The performers were Gleb Stepanov, a young Russian cellist; and Kenneth Teh, a young Malaysian pianist whom both studied in Russia. It was a night of nightmares, sweet dreams, and everything that has to do with emotions and expressions. Every adjective that you can think of—painful, furious, calming, majestic, mysterious, graceful, playful; were felt in this recital that was slightly more than 1.5 hours.

The repertoire played on that musical night, ranged from Romantic to 20th century. They were Johannes Brahms’s Cello Sonata No. 1 in E minor Op. 38, Franz Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata D 821, Sergei Prokofiev’s Cello Sonata in C major Op. 119, and Karl Davydov’s Allegro de concert Op. 11.

from Ang Ying Ying1

Stepanov produced a robust sound on his cello with such rich and thick sounding bowing by his strong technique and intention of musicality, and is well supported by Kenneth’s articulated playing, steady flow and musical directions in setting the mood of the piece. Both the cellist and pianist complimented and supported each other in their playing with communication onstage where the pianist looked at the cellist to keep the music going together, especially at the entrances and endings (a skill which is being taught in Chamber Music Ensemble and Modern Band Ensemble courses).

The lyricism and thick texture of chordal playing in both the romantic sonatas of Brahms and Schubert were portrayed with drama that were intense and dark and sometimes aggressive, opposing to the lyrical parts of the piece; conveying a huge stir in emotions from a deep dark sorrowful sentiment, to an extreme outburst of all emotions, and to a day that you could see and feel sunlight. Stepanov played his cello so expressively as how a violin would be at the lyrical sections and yet sounding beautifully mellow as how a cello should sound. These romantic pieces were well contrasted with the 20th century sonata of Prokofiev. Also a three movement work, the Prokofiev sonata showed obvious change of style with more drastic dynamic and rhythmic changes with wide range of register in its music. The themes in this piece were memorable to the audiences with the quirky yet charming writing of the music. Stepanov played passages of pizzicato with full energy and there were constant passing of motive from the cello to the piano in this 20th century piece of work which showed the importance of both instruments in creating more tone colors. While we as the audience were trying our best to keep ourselves on our seats decently, what amazes me is the stillness and calmness of Stepanov and Kenneth in their playing with the ability to stir so much emotion for the night. The last piece of music, Davydov’s Allegro de concert Op. 11 was just virtuosic. Just. Virtuosic. One of IMus’ cello major students can attest to this:

Gleb is a very passionate, highly skilled cellist- his advanced techniques, matched with his wide Russian vibrato, allowed him to create variants of tone colors and did a fantastic job with the Prokofiev sonata. His Davydov didn’t fail to amaze audience when his octaves and double stops were presented flawlessly in an incredibly fast tempo. –Stephen Tseu, a 3rd year student of B. of Classical Music (Hons).

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The performance ended with loud cheers and thunderous applause from the audience which lead to an encore of Nocturne by Tchaikovsky to end the night! A momento was presented to Gleb and Kenneth by the Director of the Institute of Music, Prof. Dr. P’ng Tean Hwa. The audience truly experienced a wide spectrum of mood and so much emotion in such a musical night. It was really an inspiring night by both the guest performers with such great concentration and focus in their music making! Feedback were extremely positive and many hoped that the Institute of Music will welcome Gleb and Kenneth back for another night of wonderful music-making in many more years to come.

This article was written by Ang Ying Ying, 3rd year student of the B. Music Classical program.

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