Pianist Anna Dmytrenko
It was a blazing 91 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday afternoon at St. Andrews Church as the Aptos Keyboard Series launched the second recital in its piano series. Appropriately the 22-year-old Ukrainian piano soloist Anna Dmytrenko added her own superheated pyrotechnics to the occasion and entertained a wildly enthusiastic audience in a spirited program that left the audience hungering for more.
The guiding light behind the Aptos Keyboard Series is composer/impresario Joseph Sekon, who first became aware of the keyboard artistry of Anna Dmytrenko when she participated and played very well in the 14th Arthur Rubinstein Piano Master Competition that took place in May 2014 in Tel-Aviv. When Sekon learned that Dmytrenko was scheduled to play several recitals in the USA in September 2015, he immediately engaged her for a recital in Aptos.
Dmytrenko, looking cool as a cucumber in the blistering heat, treated us to a program consisting of J.S. Bach’s Prelude & Fugue in C-sharp minor from Book I of the WTC, the rarely-heard Scriabin Fantasie in B minor and the great Brahms Sonata No. 3 in F minor, a gargantuan 40-minute, five-movement work that would be a challenge to an artist twice her age.
Dmytrenko gave us a somewhat restrained performance of the Bach Prelude & Fugue and the Scriabin Fantasie but pulled out all the stops in her presentation of the great Brahms Sonata and generated a fine combination of keyboard mastery and elegant refinement.
Pianist Anna Dmytrenko & Composer Joseph Sekon
Adding to the excitement and significance of the occasion was the world premiere of two works with a duration of approximately ten minutes by composer Joseph Sekon: Clepsydra (2008) and Grafite (2009). In his program notes Sekon informed us that Clepsydra (a water clock) “is a timepiece in which time is measured by the regulated flow of liquid into or out of vessels where the amount is then measured.”
Clepsydra began with disjointed sounds, widely dispersed throughout the keyboard, often developing into fast-moving patterns and sometime suggesting the buzzing insects of Bartok-like night music. Some wild dissonances along the way managed to rivet our attention in this constantly evolving spinning of magical sounds. Dmytrenko displayed her own magical palette of sounds, both introspective and aggressive.
Grafite is described by the composer as a combination of delicate and transparent textures – sometimes pure blacks and whites, and at other times a variety of half shades. Dmytrenko gave us a subtle performance that was full of surprises with episodes of disjointed sounds darting all over the keyboard.
Sekon as a composer has something to say and says it with such economy of craft that his pieces never overstay their welcome. Even more importantly they are so well written for the piano, and sound so well on the piano, that Ms. Dmytrenko sounded great while performing them.
Responding to a standing ovation, Dmytrenko gave us two encores. The first was a lovely quiet Prelude by Abram Chasins and the second was the Basso Obstinato by Shchedrin — it was a virtuoso knockout!
We will be looking forward with pleasure and anticipation to the next presentation in the Aptos Keyboard Series.