A young Russian eagle landed in College Park this week to participate in this, The Ninth Annual University of Maryland International Piano Festival and Competition. His name: Aleksander Slobodyanik.
He has winning good looks, a shock of blond hair, an eagle's eye for detail, a faultless technique, impressive velocity, resounding sonority clear as a bell due to a powerful left hand, and superb articulation and finesse.
His recital last night at Tawes Theater included all 24 of Frederic Chopin's preludes; a Scriabin sonata, No. 6; and three movements arranged for piano from "Petrouchka" by Igor Stravinsky.
The recital was a resounding success. Slobodyanik presented the Chopin work in a most direct, forthright and dry-eyed manner, untainted by late 19th-century sentimentality or false affestation. The big preludes were hurdled with ease, each one a noble account, at once magisterial and aloof. In the more tender and lyrical preludes - such as the D-flat Major - Slobodyanik's restraint and musical awareness infused the music with sublime poetry. To them all, he brought a singing legato and imposing sense of dynamic architecture. The D-Minor Prelude, No. 24, ended the two dozen with perhaps the most impressive pianistic Sturm und Drang of the evening.
His account of the "Petrouchka" was distinguished by its energy and rhythmic mastery. Scriabin's sonata found the artist adroit and febrile in this most eccentric of post-impressionist music.