Virtuoso Alexei Volodin Superbly Controlled, and Beautifully Subtle Performance

Nélida Nassar   03.17.2016

Guest soloist Alexei Volodin offers a gracefully woven program honoring Shakespeare. He masterfully tackles the “Romeo and Juliet Ten pieces for Piano” by Prokofiev. From the first notes of the “Folk Dance” reaching its crescendo with the “Montagues and Capulets” we realize we are in the presence of an exceptional pianist. The Russian displays a strong and lyrical play. His powerful Prokofiev virtuosic piano music – drawn by the composer from his great ballet score natural majesty – sings with malice and eloquence sparkling with precious colors and cleverly arranged rhythms. The Al Bustan theatre seems an ideal acoustic space giving justice to the perfectly calibrated, piano’s sounds.

Volodin unequaled as often the gifted are, continues with a dazzling art form in his Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” During the spindly, lanky scoring his andantino’s formidable pace remains fluid. In the Scherzo’s brilliance and the allegro tempestoso’s dynamic flares, his intonation remains always deep and the timbre of equal lavishness and concentration. Is it the E Minor tonality that inspires the virtuoso?

Volodin entire recital commands respect. Embracing his instrument, he seems to initiate an intimate dialogue thus becoming an integral part of it. Following Prokofiev and Mendelsohn it is Nikolai Meitner (1880-1951) “Four Tales, Op. 35: No. 4 in C-Sharp minor” based on King Lear: “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks” from a composer rarely played in recital – pieces rather performed as encores – where Volodin gives the full measure of his poetic sensitivity, a splendid moment indeed.

After the intermission change of scenery with Sergei Rachmaninoff “Sonata for Piano No. 1” in three movements. The First (1908) was triggered by Goethe’s Faust, and though the narrative subject was soon officially dropped, the influence of Liszt’s Faust Symphony looms large over its structure and emotional trajectory. Volodin approaches it with the generosity and dramatic sweep characteristic of his piano playing, and his tone is as luminous as ever. His musical intelligence, sense of line and structure, delicacy, subtlety of texture and discipline set him apart. His glowing, meticulous and fervent playing balances great gestures especially of his left hand with an immaculate sense of detail.

The native of St. Peterburg, formed by Irina Chaklina, Tatiana Zelikman and Elisso Virsaladze at the Moscow Conservatoire, showed that he is equal to the precedent masters. He displays Sviatoslav Richter’s poignant and incisive power for his Prokofiev’s rendition. His Tchaikovsky bethinks the colossus Emil Gilels for its nobility and Horowitz’s mischievous inventiveness. His ability to resonate with the spirit and style of the composers he plays is unique.

Volodin prolongs the evening without being asked with two Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in D major, Op. 23 No. 4” One of the composer’s “Ten Preludes” composed of two symmetrical phrases, the consequent being a more embellished version of the antecedent and an “Etude-Tableaux Op. 33.” An attractive march that begins with unexpected countermelodies in the left hand and grows in harmonic and textural complexity into a musical gem. Both encores played with ardor, boldness, sensitivity and great generosity.

Volodin entire recital commands respect, embracing his instrument, he seems to initiate an intimate dialogue thus becoming an integral part of it. A splendid concert where the pianist plays effortlessly with a mixture of authority and gentleness sometimes favoring speed and depth of sound. He is able to take risks while honoring triumphantly the bard of Stratford-upon-Avon. He was acclaimed by a fully conquered cheering public with a standing ovation.

Sergei Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet: Ten Pieces for Piano, Op.75
Felix Mendelssohn: arr Sergei Rachmaninov: Scherzo from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Nikolai Medtner: From Four Tales, Op.35: No. 4 in C-sharp minor: Based on King Lear: “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks”
Sergei Rachmaninov: Sonata for Piano No. 1, Op. 28