Alexander Kobrin, piano = RACHMANINOV: Etudes-Tableaux, Op. 33; Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 36; BRAHMS: Variations on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 35; CHOPIN: Nocturne in B Major, Op. 9, No. 3 – Van Cliburn Competition Series – Harmonia Mundi

by | Nov 24, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Alexander Kobrin, piano = RACHMANINOV: Etudes-Tableaux, Op. 33;
Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 36; BRAHMS: Variations on a Theme of
Paganini, Op. 35; CHOPIN: Nocturne in B Major, Op. 9, No. 3 – Van
Cliburn Competition Series – Harmonia Mundi HMU 907404  75:49 ****:

Alexander Kobrin (b. 1980) is the Gold Medal Winner of the Twelfth Van
Cliburn International Piano Competition, and this disc comprised of
recitals given May 20-June 5, 2005, permits us to hear why. The big
technique and the poetic temperament are Kobrin’s calling cards:
witness his C Minor and G Minor Etudes-Tableaux by Rachmaninov, Op. 33,
Nos. 3 and 7, whose introspective hues melt into each other, indebted
to Debussy, Bach, and Scriabin at once. The D Minor becomes another of
Rachmaninov’s sultry marches whose block chords lend an orchestral
texture to its invocation of bells and hymns. The E-flat, with its
peppy, quicksilver runs and brittle sonority, indicates how Kobrin will
perform the Paganini Rhapsody when he has a recording contract.

The knotty Brahms variations a la Paganini and Liszt prove mere “finger
exercises,” (to use the composer’s own irony) for Kobrin, who tosses
off double chords and huge spans with facility and restrained grace,
especially for the sotto voce of the tenth variant in Book I. Anyone
who plays Rachmaninov with passion and poetry must have a penchant for
Chopin, so the B Major Nocturne and its uneasy major/minor ambiguities
finds a natural exponent in Kobrin. Kobrin plays with revised version
(1931) of Rachmaninov’s B-flat Minor Sonata, again more than mere
homage to the Chopin opus in the same key. The intermingling of
bombast, bravura, and Russian Orthodox liturgy provides a hearty
vehicle for Kobrin, who packs the Horowitzian whollop and the
Weissenberg sensibility for structure. Veteran audio producer Thomas
Frost captures the electric currents between artist, music, and
audience with a clear and warm fidelity. When Kobrin rings off the last
chords from the Rachmaninov Sonata, the intake of breath just before
the audience explodes into applause is as palpable as a raised fist. A
potent young musician with a bright future, this Kobrin.

–Gary Lemco

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