A Show of Pianistic Brilliance

Monday, March 12, 2007

Very rarely, a pianist's style combines such technical prowess and musical understanding that he seems to be channeling the great virtuosos of the past. That was Alexandre Pirojenko at the Mansion at Strathmore on Friday night, playing with unfailing power and limpidity -- but without exaggerated mannerisms or affectation.

The program's first half was all Schumann. Standouts among the "Phantasiestucke" were a mercurial No. 3; a sparkling No. 6, with all notes amazingly clear in the very fast middle section; a twinkling No. 7; and, in No. 8, impressive dignity stopping just short of pomposity.

The "Variations on a Theme of Clara Wieck," from Sonata No. 3, came across as tenuously connected miniatures alternating power and tenderness, even within the same phrase.

Three of the "Noveletten," Op. 21, were marked by resounding martial elements and elegant hand crossings (No. 1), extreme finger dexterity (No. 2) and quicksilver mood and tempo shifts (No. 8).

The evening's second half was a heaping helping of Scriabin served up, rather oddly, without pause -- moving the audience directly from the gentle Prelude and Nocturne for the Left Hand and the lyrical Sonata No. 2 to the developing use of Scriabin's so-called "synthetic chord" in his Three Pieces, Op. 45, and Sonata No. 4.

Pirojenko ended his recital in a brilliant burst of fireworks with Saint-Saens's "Danse Macabre." But the overall program proved that he is more than a virtuoso -- he is a poet of the piano.

-- Mark J. Estren

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