Program: BACH-BUSONI: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565; MOZART: Sonata in D Major, K. 576; SCHUBERT: Sonata in A Major, D. 664; RACHMANINOV: Nine Etudes-Tableaux, Op. 39; MOSZKOWSKI: Etude in A-flat Major, Op. 72, No. 11; BALAKIREV: Islamey; RACHMANINOV: Prelude in G-sharp Minor, Op. 32, No. 12; MOZART (arr. Volodos): Concert Paraphrase on Rondo alla Turca
Studio: VAI DVD 4433
Video: 4:3 full screen; Color
Audio: PCM Stereo
Length: 105 minutes
Taped at the Amaturo Theater, Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 8 May 2007 at the Miami International Piano Festival, this recital features the gifted Alexander Gavrylyuk (b. 1984), the First Prize winner of the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Masters Competition in 2005. The opening piece, Bach’s long-time calling-card Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, as arranged by Busoni, has both pianist and camera concentrated in an almost fetal position at the keyboard, so internalized is the playing, though the Steinway sound is brilliantly percussive and piercing through the thick textures.
The Mozart D Major “Trumpet” Sonata alters the sonic ambiance considerably, here a pristine, considered, and molded realization of detailed beauty. The camera behind the pianist’s right shoulder captures the hands in synchronized dialogue in the shimmering Adagio, the right hand gently ushering pearls of melody forward, answered by a cello line in the bass. Polished bravura marks the last movement Allegretto, the staccati literally standing on their hind legs, barking runs from Scarlatti. The polyphonic passages gain a tumultuous momentum under Gavrylyuk without becoming academic exercises in classical pedantry. The camera likes to place everything but his hands in shadow, the last shot capturing the grimace of diamond cutter at his bench.
A deep bow takes us to the sweet A Major Sonata by Schubert, long a favorite of luminaries Hess, Cherkassky, and Casadesus. Gavrylyuk realizes the opening movement as a song quite capable of grumbling through its resigned smiles, often achieving a resolute sense of drama. The Aeolian harp virtues of the writing, however, dominate; and, in the magical Andante we are lulled by this young pianist’s natural, orphic powers. The last movement Allegro soon becomes a bit demonized, albeit tempered by the “Scotch snap” in the secondary melody. The third, polyphonic motif combines passion with playfulness in a most beguiling, graceful kaleidoscope.
Having disposed of the classics with virile economy, Gavrylyuk turns to his fellow Russians, Balakirev and Rachmaninov, for validation of his prowess. Moody, often tormented chord progressions mark several of these tone-pictures, always infused with the composer’s long-boned nostalgia. The C Minor and A Minor which open the set complement each other in a manner typical of the composer’s musical polarity, many of the figures hinting at the Paganini Rhapsody. No. 3 in F-sharp Minor combines Chopin with carillons from Russian orthodox liturgy, a recollection of the Suite for 2 Pianos, Op. 5. Numbers 4 and 6 owe debts to Schumann’s maerchen, martial fairy-tales that, like the A Minor (purportedly Little Red Riding Hood), can explode with digital furies. No. 5 in E-flat Minor, like the B Minor Prelude from Op. 32, signifies a colossal return, and Gavrylyuk allows it expanse and muscular girth. Something of Alfred Hitchcock in No. 7 in C Minor, maybe a touch of Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca, here, inviting the camera’s double exposure. The last two, in D Minor and D Major, provide a final complement in swirling, diaphanous colors and turgid emotions in Gothic gestures, the dark tarns in Poe.
Between the Russian giants Gavrylyuk introduces a Horowitz favorite, the shimmering Etude in A-flat Major, Op. 72, No. 11 by Moszkowski, a Lisztian exercise in leggierezza and the crossing of hands. On to Balakirev’s knotty Oriental Fantasy, played with an unassailable bravura in the tradition of Cziffra and Katchen The secondary theme sways with a languor worthy of Scheherazade. The evolution of these tunes into a scintillating polyphonic etude Gavrylyuk throws off with panache to spare, the audience howling its need for encores. After the pomp of caravans, the Rachmaninov G-sharp Minor Prelude evokes intimate, albeit superheated reminiscences. The Volodos arrangement of Mozart Turkish Rondo smacks of Godowsky’s intricate eddies of sound, layered complexity undergirded by playfully consummate technique. Lots of notes in this pianist’s head and his hands, most audacious!
— Gary Lemco