Thursday 12 December 2013

Harmonia Mundi releases recordings of Stravinsky and Liszt from the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Gold Medal winner, Vadym Kholodenko

The quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, widely recognized as one of the world's most important, was organized by a group of music teachers and citizens from Fort Worth, Texas, USA in 1962 to commemorate pianist Van Cliburn’s historic victory at the first Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow in 1958 and is dedicated to the discovery of the world's finest pianists. In addition to the cash prizes, the medallists receive career management, international (Gold Medallist only) and U.S. concert tours for the three concert seasons following the Competition, a live recording produced by Harmonia Mundi USA of Competition performances and a Studio recording produced by Harmonia Mundi USA.

I like to look at such events as more of a showcase for fine young musicians rather than just a competitive event. It is certainly the case that it is not always the outright winner that becomes a well-known name. One only has to run through the list of top placed pianists in the Van Cliburn to see how many runners up have achieved so much. In 1965 Cécile Ousset was placed just 4th, in 1966, whilst Radu Lupu took the gold medal, that fine pianist Rudolf Buchbinder was placed 5th. In 1969 Cristina Ortiz was first, but at the following competition in 1973 Christian Zacharias was the silver medallist. In 1981, a particular favourite of mine, Santiago Rodriguez, was another silver medallist whilst in 1985 Barry Douglas was placed 3rd.

I listened to the live webcast of this year’s competition and must say that both the Silver medallist and recipient of the Audience Award , Beatrice Rana and Gold medallist, Steven De Groote Memorial Award for Best Performance of Chamber Music and Beverley Taylor Smith Award for Best Performance of a New Work, Vadym Kholodenko were outstanding recipients of their awards.

In the final round Beatrice Rana, from Italy, gave a colossal performance of Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto, alive to all the composer’s snappy rhythms and, in the slower passages, the feeling of something immense about to emerge. Ukrainian pianist, Vadym Kholodenko showed terrific command and authority in Prokofiev’s Third Concerto, a magnificent technique and much finesse.

It is a recording of Vadym Kholodenko’s Semi-final Round recital that has now been released by Harmonia Mundi and features Stravinsky’s Trois mouvements de Pétrouchka (1921) and Liszt’s Transcendental Études (1852).

HMU 907605

Stravinsky’s Trois mouvements de Pétrouchka allows this pianist to show the different aspects of his musicianship with his phenomenal technique to the fore as he throws himself into the Danse Russe. He has a silken touch and much poetic sensibility in Chez Pétrouchka and fine rhythmic control in La semaine grasse as he builds the music with some remarkable playing, full of assurance and command with terrific clashing dissonances in the coda.

Competition time constraints precluded Kholodenko playing all twelve of Liszt’s Transcendental Études and, on this recording, the longest of the Études, Ricordanza, is taken from a Moscow recording, though it fits extremely well into the overall performance.

As soon as the Preludio opens, Kholodenko shows his ability to control form, rhythm and dynamics. He has a lightness of touch in the Molto vivace and a wonderful freedom of expression in the languid Paysage. Mazeppa shows great freedom and, indeed, a feeling of sheer abandon, breadth and power with tremendous scales, so fluid. Kholodenko’s wonderful touch is shown again in his superb Feux follets and with Vision, a less than convincing opening quickly builds in strength with some formidable playing. Eroica leaves no such doubts, with this pianist showing that he knows just how to pull together the structure and allow the music to expand and develop.

Kholodenko has terrific control of the varying rhythms and dynamics of Wilde Jagd as well as some lovely lyrical expression. The earlier recorded Ricordanza reveals more of this pianist’s poetic nature with playing of exquisite sensibility with fine rubato, dynamics, colouring and a sense of structure that, when the music reaches a peak towards the end, one wonders how one arrived there. There is great rhythmic freedom in the Allegro agitato molto and more poetic subtleties in Harmonies du soir, before the final Chasse-neige, with pulsating tremolo phrases as he really whips up a storm.

The enthusiastic applause is kept in – how could it be otherwise?

With a fine live recording, this new release gives us a chance to hear an outstanding pianist who, I hope, will go on to a great career. 2013/14 will certainly be busy for him as he undertakes the 50 engagements and a studio recording for Harmonia Mundi that result from his competition win.

Harmonia Mundi USA has also released recital recordings from the Semi-final Round recitals of Silver Medallist, Beatrice Rana and Crystal award winner, Sean Chen .

HMU 907606
HMU 907607


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