English pianist Freddy Kempf has built a large and loyal fan base here since making his Australian debut performing the five Beethoven concertos with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in 2005. Top of the list is Yarmila Alfonzetti, curator of the excellent Utzon Music Series at Sydney Opera House, who describes him as her favourite pianist, whose playing sings to her heart.

Freddy Kempf, Utzon Music Series, Sydney Opera HouseFreddy Kempf. Photo © Denis Bald

This is why she booked him to open her 2019 series a mere three seasons after he gave a stunning double recital in the same room. For the first of those he had chosen a program of works by Tchaikovsky and for this return recital, with a backdrop of the sunlit harbour through the Utzon Room’s wall-length window, he revisited the same country in what could be described as a musical Russian arc.

Starting with Sergei Prokofiev’s surging romantic first sonata and ending with Rachmaninov’s second sonata, the selection touched on the turmoil of war and influence of jazz on its circular journey.

The son of a German father and Japanese mother, London-born Kempf was cut out for...