08 April, 2009

Concert Review: Vladimir Feltsman

Concert Review: Vladimir Feltsman

April 6th, 2009
Carnegie Hall

The date was for Zimerman. I walked in pretty late and was surprised that it was not a packed house. I opened the program and found out why. Feltsman was a last-minute substitution for the "indisposed" Zimerman.

I had never heard Feltsman in concert. I heard some of his early Sony recordings and they were not particularly memorable. So I was rather annoyed in the beginning. But as soon as the playing began a slow transformation took place.

The Bach Partita No. 1 was more elastic than Perahia's account only a few days back. Many passages were played in broader strokes, with less tonal allure, but the account was alert enough to raise my interest. Beethoven's Pathetique was very nicely played, not as powerful as Perahia's Beethoven, but more supple and breathing. What is going on these days? Why is every pianist programming Bach and Beethoven (Zimerman's was to have been Partita No. 2 and Beethoven's Op 111)? Some kind of undeclared war?

The real revelation came in the second half. After a straightforward opening, Feltsman launched into the Pictures at an Exhibition like few I have ever heard in any work. To talk about orchestral sonority would not be sufficient praise for the miraculous range of colors Feltsman got from his keyboard. Deft and sure in his touch, I heard absolutely nothing tentative in his notes. Add to this some remarkably devilish rhythmic manipulation and we got what could truly be said as a kaleidoscope, not only one into the music, but one into pianism. Two bejewelled Rachmaninov Preludes finished off one of the best piano concerts I have ever heard. Would it be heresy to say the rendition is as good as Richter's? But then this is live!

Serendipity! Here's a pianist one does not have to try, or even strain, to love. One just follows his fingers. I did not miss Zimerman, and I enjoyed this concert more than Perahia's.

For a somewhat different view, read the New York Times review

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