Last night’s program began with a disappointment, as well as a pleasant surprise. The disappointment was that Yuan Sheng would not be appearing. I had been looking forward to hearing him play a Bach Partita, as he is a wonderful Bach pianist. The pleasant surprise was that his place was taken by Dmitry Rachmanov, who performed a Scriabin group. Mr. Rachmanov is known for his performances of that composer, and, indeed, I heard him play an all-Scriabin recital last season at Zankel Hall. His playing of this music was very cultured and refined, yet strong, and always convincing.
Nina Lelchuk, as one could tell from the audience reaction, is a highly respected pianist and teacher. She is an assertive and idiomatic Chopin player. Her performances of the first and last Mazurkas were particularly fine.
Mykola Suk is a very individual pianist who reminds me, in some ways of Robert Goldsand. He has unusual ideas about pacing, and played parts of the 12th Hungarian Rhapsody of Liszt at remarkably slow tempi, yet got the piano to “roar,” and produced great excitement at climaxes.
José Ramos Santana gave a warm, elegant and loving performance of the three works from Iberia. One wonders if the atmosphere of a country could be expressed any better than that of Spain in this work?
I always get a kick out of Steven Mayer’s performances because of his innate musicality, combined with terrific technique and a high energy level. The lovely, flowing Silver Spring gave way to the jazzy (sarcastic? neurotic?) Masque from Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety and that, in turn, led to Hold That Tiger, which was a wonderful romp. If Mykola Suk reminds me in some ways of Robert Goldsand, Steven Mayer makes me think of Earl Wild, in whom virtuosity, popular themes and high culture all came together.
Gesa Luecker and Gabriele Leporatti gave a performance of the Messiaen work which was spiritual yet intense, and exotic, with beautiful, subtle shadings.
The final work on the program was the Wilberg arrangement of Themes from Carmen, played by Ms. Luecker and Mr. Leporatti, plus Claire Huangci and Eduard Zilberkant. With some added harmonies, it was played with great spirit and energy, and the ensemble was excellent. Perhaps the only way to hear this music with even more strength and electricity would be to hear the recording of Horowitz playing his own transcription at the famous Carnegie Hall televised concert!