Russian Gleb Ivanov: Beyond Loud and Fast

Ivanov performed on Tuesday at the Terrace Theater.
Ivanov performed on Tuesday at the Terrace Theater. (Young Concert Artists)
Thursday, October 13, 2005

There is a stereotype of the young piano virtuoso, particularly the young Russian virtuoso, as someone who plays as loud and fast as he can.

There is not much truth in that cliche, and none at all if it is applied to Gleb Ivanov, who played in the Terrace Theater on Tuesday night under the auspices of Young Concert Artists.

Well known in Russia, Ivanov is virtually unknown in the United States, but that is not likely to last much longer.

He did the young virtuoso bit, perhaps to excess and probably just to show that he could, in two numbers: Liszt's brilliantly evocative fantasia "Apres une Lecture de Dante" and a wild Hungarian dance by Brahms, his final encore.

But elsewhere, in an exquisitely formed Haydn Sonata in E-flat; in the Sonata, Op. 26, by Samuel Barber, played with beautifully distinct contrapuntal lines; and in lilting performances of a waltz and a nocturne by Chopin, he made his instrument sing.

The singing metaphor was particularly apt for the most distinctive and successful part of the program -- four transcriptions of vocal music that made the audience forget for a while that the piano is, essentially, a percussion instrument.

The works were Rachmaninoff's magnificent Vocalise and three songs by Schubert in Liszt transcriptions: "Auf dem Wasser zu Singen," "Der Erlkonig" and "Standchen."

They are well contrasted in style and atmosphere, and Ivanov's playing brought out the character of each with limpid tone and phrasing that evoked a singing voice.

-- Joseph McLellan

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