BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2 “Moonlight”; SCHUMANN: Kinderszenen, Op. 15; CHOPIN: Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58; TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23; MENDELSSOHN: Cello Sonata No. 2 in D Major, Op. 58 – Pavel Kolesnikov, piano/ Johannes Moser, cello/ Calgary Philharmonic Orch./ Roberto Minczuk – Honens (2 CDs) 62:38; 62:37 [Honens.com/Honens-Shop.aspx] *****:
Russian pianist Pavel Kolesnikov (b. 1989), Prize Laureate at the 2012 Honens International Piano Competition, displays his admirable penchant for the Romantic temperament with this recital from Calgary, Canada, October 2012. His “Moonlight” Sonata enjoys a full-blooded resonance, neither cloying nor distorted by unseemly affectation. Rather, the Adagio sostenuto, with its “themeless” arpeggios and minor scales, seems to have regained its inherent mystery, its phenomenal transcendence by simplicity of means. A poised and intimate Allegretto leads us to a virile, thoroughly bravura version of the Presto agitato, full of sound and fury, signifying everything we demand of delicious, thoughtful energy in this powerhouse explosion of the Beethoven ethos.
The urge to simplicity continues in Schumann’s thirteen paeans to childhood, his 1839 homage in the form of the Kinderszenen suite that tests many an adult’s digital prowess. Kolesnikov, like pianists Haskil and Anda before him, balances the muscular aspects of the score with its inherent sweetness and directness of expression. Florestan certainly makes his presence known in Glueckes genug, Ritter vom Steckenpferd, and the ‘maerchen’ Wichtige Begebenheit; while the immortal Traumerei floats in a tenderly etched haze only Eusebius could imagine. A diaphanous innocence pervades Am Kamin, melodious and sensitive to dynamic shades at every measure. Pure Schumann magic, the scale pattern of Fast zu ernst, judiciously interrupted by pregnant caesuras, offers a Eusebius mystery. With the far-seeing Fuerchtenmachen we enter a more serious world, a universe of dark possibilities that surround but do not directly threaten the Sleeping Infant at No. 12. When “The Poet Speaks,” a mood of nostalgia supersedes all the passing affects prior, since it is the fragile dream itself that must endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
The Romantic Agony proceeds immediately, with the Kolesnikov rendition of the 1844 Third Sonata in B Minor by Frederic Chopin. For a young man’s performance, this account carries itself with an authority and affective poise well beyond its years. We are reminded of the Lipatti inscription, also of high sentiment and fairer hopes. Alternately martial and clarion, in the manner of Shelley’s “trumpet of prophecy,” the filigree – often tempestuously contrapuntal – achieves a splendid resonance and nobility of expression. The tiger, having been unleashed, brings fire into the forest of the night, and Kolesnikov’s tempos rarely relax, but the poetic impulse flames out in limpid arches. Tone-color, resonance, volatility – all the Chopin ingredients – open themselves gloriously here. The ensuing E-flat Major Scherzo, for all of its compression, startles in its ballade-like middle section and fierce runs in the treble. A militant dotted rhythm opening belies Kolesnikov’s tender account of the B Major Largo movement, a processional of dignified, harmonically enchanted character whose capacity to hypnotize Kolesnikov exploits boldly. Just as rhythmically voluptuous as the Largo had been melodically mesmeric, the Finale bursts forth in glorious B Minor gallops and glistening cascades, the internal impetus gathering force as Kolesnikov proceeds. Not since Robert Casadesus have I felt the internal, dramatic tremors of this massive color spectacle so fervently, although some may liken Kolesnikov to William Kapell. At the final chords, you’ll hoot and cheer along with the dazzled audience.
The Tchaikovsky Concerto performance assumes a middle ground between the colossal granite of the Richter/Karajan inscription and the poetic longing of the Gilels/Reiner collaboration. Alternately aggressive and sentimentally wistful, the first movement moves in its own version of symmetrical classicism, each phrase twice repeated, a la Schumann. Kolesnikov makes good colors in this virtuoso piece, a high gloss in the scintillating runs and the furioso octaves the piece demands. Conductor Minczuk adds his own velocities and dreamy mists, as required. The glistening alla musette in Kolesnikov’s cadenza will charm the birds from the trees, while his massive octaves should garner many a comparison to the monolith Richter.
For the lyrical Andantino semplice – prestissimo second movement, however, the Gilels model seems more apt, the French touch coming to the fore, a fine blend of the pastoral and cannily urbane digital fireworks in perfect harmony. And so to the glories of the Allegro con fuoco finale, the Calgary Philharmonic woodwinds, horns, and tympani here engaged in as much swirling motion as the ebulliently busy keyboard. Kolesnikov’s staccatissimi run like strings of melted mercury on that planet’s hot sands. His quick and fertile communication with his audience bespeaks yet another dynamic model in this work, Vladimir Horowitz. The applause certainly approves the analogy!
Finally, Kolesnikov joins another full-blooded, rising virtuoso, German-Canadian cellist Johannes Moser (b. 1979), a peer and kindred spirit in every musical way. Their hefty, soulful account of the 1843 D Major Cello Sonata of Felix Mendelssohn waxes richly textured, shimmering with nervously buoyant energy. The first two movements shine in all the glories of youthful enthusiasm buttressed by poignant artistry. The celebrated Adagio movement, which at first strums in the keyboard, soon attains the beatitude of a Bach chorale – possibly, Es ist vollbracht – exalted by Moser’s firm cantilena. The “elfin” atmosphere of the second movement – and A Midsummer Night’s Dream – returns for the bubbly finale, Molto allegro e vivace, in which cello and piano engage in healthy debate and bravura rivalry. The fluent, easy virtuosity and collegiality of this performance hangs pure fire with the audience, who have been consistently delighted with Kolesnikov’s honest musicianship of world-class caliber.