This September, a young talented pianist Maxim Kinasov performed a streamed solo as part of the “New Artist Recital” programme that gives an opportunity to invited young artists to introduce themselves to the Keyboard Trust and the public. Christopher Axworthy offers a detailed review of this varied, imaginative and thought provoking programme, so valiantly and superbly performed by Maxim.
From the very first notes of Bauer’s transcription of Franck’s Prelude Fugue and Variation it was obvious that here was an artist painting in colours and sounds. A transcendental technique at the service of allowing the music to speak with such subtle beauty and colour. It was a lesson in itself to see this Sokolov type figure hovering over the keys just as the great master himself does. Imperceptible continuous circular movements like a bee hovering around the hive waiting to bring home the nectar to make their unique honey. This was just as Rubinstein had likened style and personality in trying to explain the unexplainable to the very first young musicians competing in his competition. It is a God given gift – the search for beauty and ability to tell a story in all its forms from the tempest, through inferno to paradise and sublime love. And it was all here in Maxim’s extraordinary performances. A vast bare canvas that he preceded, without any extrovert showmanship, to fill with the most subtle ravishing sounds.
The fluidity of the haunting theme of the Franck was followed by the luminous clarity and full organ like sonorities in the fugue. A sense of balance that allows the musical line to be revealed without disturbing the shape and form of the underlying counterpoints. An orchestra in his hands led by someone who is listening so attentively to every strand as the music takes on its architectural shape and form. A continuous forward movement of absolute authority as he takes us by the hand and leads us through this magical landscape. The reappearance of the haunting theme is in this Bauer transcription even more beautiful than the Prelude chorale and fugue. An ethereal apparition of pure magic that gradually builds in intensity with its obsessive almost Scriabinesque insistence that blows itself out leaving a mere whisper of the magic land we have been allowed a glimpse. The work was written by Franck for organ in 1860/62 and dedicated to Saint Saens, although originally conceived for piano and harmonium. Both Harold Bauer and Ignaz Friedman transcribed it for solo piano.
Maxim’s performance was indeed the sumptuous velvet sound of Ormandy’s Philadelphia but there is also a brass section to every orchestra that sometimes I felt Maxim neglected. Music is made of contrast and we had to wait until the glimpse of Dante’s inferno before Maxim chose to include the brass band too! ’Darkness to be able to perceive light ‘. It is not meant as a criticism and is obviously the choice and sensibility of the interpreter. Volodos indeed plays so beautifully that you sometime wish he would just throw himself occasionally into the piano like a sledgehammer – but can too much beauty ever be criticised? It is a question of an introvert personality, of a modesty and ultra sensitivity to sound allied to a transcendental technical mastery which is quite remarkable in a pianist still in only his 20’s .
The three Etudes Tableaux by Rachmaninov are described by the composer himself as pictures in sound – the fact that he never disclosed what the pictures were, we might assume that he did not want to limit the listeners’ own fantasy. As he himself said, ”I do not believe in the artist that discloses too much of his images. Let [the listener] paint for themselves what it most suggests.
Op.33 n.2 was of haunting beauty and a subtle sense of balance which gave such luminous sound to the melodic line and created an atmosphere in which the ending was simply a golden stream of sounds like smoke dissolving into thin air. An extraordinary technical feat of jeux perlé of fleeting lightness and colour not least helped by his mastery of the pedals. There was menace in Op.33 n.3 played with total concentration as the sumptuous arpeggios revealed the melodic line in their midst and was re used in the Largo of his Fourth piano concerto written fifteen years later. Op 33 n.8 was played with turbulence and Scriabin like menace where his control of sound was quite extraordinary as he brought this miniature tone poem vividly to life.
Après une lecture du Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata is also known as the Dante Sonata and is in one movement. It was completed in 1849 and first published in 1856 as part of the second volume of his Années de pèlerinage. It was inspired by the reading of Dante’s Divine Comedy and as Leslie Howard pointed out in his introduction it obviously depicts l’inferno with the souls of hell wailing in anguish. It received a remarkably vivid performance from Maxim with a great sense of character from the very first notes shaped with great care before the menacing scales in the base that herald the unveiling of events. There was a gradual build up of intensity shaped like a true musician with a transcendental control where technique and music are fused into one. There was utmost delicacy too in the central episode, where his fingers barely touched the keys as the colours from the accompaniment were wondrously revealed like jewels sparkling as they caught the light.
There was excitement, too, generated by an accumulation of sound that became quite overwhelming as the full orchestra – brass and all – was revealed. Octaves that were screams from hell dissolving into vibrant chords on which the melodic line was revealed as if on a magic cloud of sounds. He fearlessly plunged into the final few pages with a triumphant outpouring of sounds which knew no technical limitations. A remarkable performance in which every detail of the score had been scrupulously incorporated into a fantasy world that more than explains the composer’s own title of Fantasia quasi Sonata
The Piano Sonata in E flat minor Op.26 was written by Samuel Barber in 1949 for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the League of Composers aimed at promoting new American works. It was commissioned by Irving Berlin and Richard Rodgers and first performed by Vladimir Horowitz in Havana, Cuba, on December 9, 1949, followed by performances in Cleveland and Washington, DC, before presenting the work at Carnegie Hall on January 23, 1950. It was received with overwhelming critical acclaim and has been part of the piano repertoire ever since. It is a complex work in four movements and although extremely difficult technically, the sonata is much more than a virtuosic showpiece. Barber integrated many 20th century musical ideas into the sonata, including extended chromaticism and tone rows. Pungent rhythms alternate with mystery and menace in the first movement and the second, Allegro vivace a perpetuum mobile played with startling rhythmic energy to the final bars thrown off with transcendental lightness. The subtle beauty of the Adagio mesto was played with such extraordinary colouring and a sense of architectural shape constantly moving forward with great intensity. The Fugue showed all his amazing agility in a ceaselessly busy embroidery of notes of transcendental difficulty.