It was a highly enthusiastic audience that turned out Sunday afternoon, June 24, to hear Russian pianist Alexey Trushechkin perform a recital presented jointly by Joseph Sekon and the Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist in Aptos. Twenty-eight-year-old Trushechkin, a product of the Moscow Conservatory and presently a graduate student at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia, has all the attributes we would expect from a Russian-trained virtuoso. He has a masterful technique that knows no limitations, an expressive style that shapes phrases with elegant conviction, and a genuinely sympathetic feeling for a wide variety of romantic and 20th-century repertoire.
Trushechkin’s opening selection, Schumann’s Sonata No. 1 in F-sharp minor, is a problematic work — difficult for the performer, and difficult for the audience. This sonata exhibits many moments of beauty and genius, but also suffers from an overly long exposition and development section in the first movement, a grotesque Intermezzo, and problems of over repetition in the Scherzo and Finale. That being said, Trushechkin held us spellbound for 28 minutes and diverted our attention from the sonata’s flaws. We ended up admiring how well he presented the work as a coherent logical whole. In his performance, especially in the first movement, we heard an emotional foreshadowing of the dark character we often associate with the music of Brahms, although Schumann’s compositional style is more quixotic and less structured than Brahms.
Trushechkin’s program continued with three miniatures selected from Grieg’s 13 volumes of Lyric Pieces: Melodie, Op. 47, No. 3, Little Bird, Op. 43, No. 4, and Jolster Dance, Op. 17, No. 5. I have to admit being totally blindsided by these three pieces, for I have never heard them previously in recital or on recordings. An early twentieth-century music critic once dismissed Grieg’s Lyric Pieces as “inconsequential little bonbons filled with snow.” Trushechkin played them with conviction and revealed how his simple and direct approach proved them to be charming and unjustly neglected.
After intermission we heard Trushechkin perform Scriabin’s “Black Mass” Sonata No. 9, Op. 68. Unlike the Chopinesque quality of Scriabin’s early works, the Sonata No. 9 is a mature work that bristles with avant-garde mystical innovations — dissonances upon dissonances and chains of troubled trills that constantly challenge us. All of us who know this work are haunted by the ghost of Vladimir Horowitz whose recorded performance brought this sonata to our attention and made it his own. Trushechkin’s masterful performance demonstrated to us that he has his own definite ideas about this work and was able to present them with dazzling conviction.
Another work on which Vladimir Horowitz left his indelible stamp is Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata in B-flat major, which Trushechkin performed with abandoned passion and stunning conviction. The final movement, Precipitato, is one of the finest perpetual-motion toccatas ever written for the piano, and Trushechkin’s masterful and persistent control of the tempo — never letting it get out of control — was one of the high points in the afternoon’s recital. Its end brought the audience to its feet with a sustained chorus of bravos.
The slow movement of the Prokofiev Sonata, Andante caloroso, sandwiched in between the two outer, more violent movements, is a rare episode of extraordinary melodic charm, and Trushechkin gave it his all. In this respect he was doing his best to coax more subtlety and various degrees of cantabile from an instrument that was better at producing loud sounds than soft ones. The piano, a 1903 Steinway Model O, 5’10’ in length, was amazing in its ability to permit Trushechkin to get as much sound as he did from a instrument of this venerable age, and it needs to be said that Trushechkin got massive sonorities from the instrument without going past its threshold to produce outright ugly sounds. In an age when many young pianists bang away unmercifully, Trushechkin exhibited admirable control, and the music thanked him for it. This was a great performance of the Prokofiev Seventh Sonata, and we would love to hear him perform it on a well-regulated and well-voiced nine-foot Steinway concert grand.
Trushechkin ended the recital with an aggressive, over-the-top performance of Franz Liszt’s Paganini Etude No 6 in A minor — sort of like “Liszt at the Battle of Borodino” where subtlety suffered at the hands of virtuosity. His extroverted performance made it seem like a tossed-off encore, but it was much admired by the audience. Responding to the accolades, Trushechkin gave us two lovely encores: an Etude-Tableau in C Minor by Rachmaninoff and L’isle Joyeuse by Debussy.
There is an iconic line in the 1975 film, “Jaws,” when at the first terrifying appearance of the monster great white shark, Richard Dreyfus says to the shark hunter, “You are going to need a bigger boat!” Director of the Aptos Keyboard Artist Series Joseph Sekon is also aware that he needs a “bigger boat” and is actively seeking a larger Steinway for his series. The 1903 Steinway used in this recital, although admirably serviced by Royal Oaks master technician Fenton Murray (the piano held its tuning magnificently throughout the concert), is inadequate for such a demanding artist as Trushechkin, and it is a great tribute to him that he was still able to make magnificent music that dazzled and charmed us simultaneously.
We would like to hear Trushechkin in a return engagement — hopefully for more Rachmaninoff and perhaps some Chopin, Beethoven, Mozart and Bach. We wish him well in his future career.