Last night at Sunset Center in Carmel, Ukranian pianist, Vadym Kholodenko, Gold Medal winner of the most recent Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Ft. Worth, Texas, performing with the Monterey Symphony, gave us a blockbuster performance of Beethoven’s popular “Emperor” Concerto. This was not a restrained Viennese-classical-style performance, but rather a full blooded Russian, virtuoso performance, full of sound and fury, and never letting us forget that he was in command of this great work.
Yet, balancing this was some elegant and refined poetry in the lovely slow movement, and where it all came together most perfectly was in the final Rondo movement where Kholodenko’s artistic playing was a triumph of fine interplay between orchestra and the solo instrument. Very impressive were the elegant passages where Kholodenko was listening intently to the orchestra and proving himself to be a great ensemble player serving and enhancing the music, not just showing off his fantastic pianistic skills.
Kholodenko has a great future, for he has it all: masterful and complete technical control, artistic poetry and a charming personal charisma. Additional proof of these qualities were revealed in the one lovely encore he played for us — Sonetto 121 del Petrarca by Liszt. This was a totally charming encore, and it will probably have some pianists in the audience searching for it in their music library.
In the first half of the concert before intermission, we were treated to a rich and powerful performance of Hindemith’s 1940 Symphony in E-flat Major. Hindemith in his youth experimented briefly with avant-garde styles, but soon became more interested in traditional forms and genres. Although the symphony we heard last night explores traditional forms, it has its own unique flavors — Hindemith’s quartel scales and thick textures. But it also demonstrates a brilliant exploitation of orchestral textures, for it tends to be challenging for all of the orchestra players.
The opening of the first movement, with its fiery and dramatic horn passages, immediately grabs your attention and never lets go. There may not have been any memorable melodies, for it is definitely not Rachmaninoff, and it may not have had the rhythmic vitality of Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. But it does have its own unique flavor, and for that we have to admire Max Bravado-Darman’s willingness to take a chance and program one of the twentieth century’s most neglected compositions. Did the audience love it? Well, the applause was polite, but there was no standing ovation. That was to be reserved for Vadym Kholodenko, and it was well deserved.