Classical Music Guide Forum - Thursday, July 28, 2011 - Written by Donald Isler

Dmitri Alexeev Recital - IKIF

Schumann: Blumenstück in D Flat major, Op. 19
Schumann: Kreisleriana, Op. 16
Glinka/Balakirev: The Lark
Scriabin: Four Preludes, Op. 12
Scriabin: Quasi Valse in F major, Op. 47
Scriabin: Two Poemes, Op. 69
Scriabin: Two Etudes, Op. 42
Chopin: Five Mazurkas
Chopin: Poloniase in A Flat major, Op. 53

Although he may not be a well-known artist here, pianist Dmitri Alexeev has performed all over the world and recorded for several major labels. He won awards at the 1969 Marguerite Long Competition in Paris, the 1970 George Enescu Competition in Bucharest, and the 1974 Tchaikovsky Competition before being unanimously awarded first prize at the Leeds Competition in 1975. He is a strong, confident and serious performer who sometimes seems just a bit frustrated when continuing applause keeps him from moving on to the next work.

The Blumenstück is a lovely work which is not heard often. It has some tempo changes marked, and of course one does not expect it to be played metronomically, as it was written by one of the most Romantic of composers. However, there was far too much of stop-go, red light - green light rubato in this performance, for this listener, at least. After awhile one could even predict how the rubato would go, which took away from its expressive impact. Even Horowitz, who played this piece, and was often accused of not being able to play "simply" did not exaggerate the pacing like this.

Mr. Alexeev's Kreisleriana, by contrast, had no rhythmic distortion and was very varied, powerful and effective. Particularly impressive parts of it included the fugato in the second to the last movement, played at a blazing tempo, and the chorale theme which followed, as well as the impassioned D minor section in the last movement.

Mr. Alexeev began the second half of the program with a wonderful performance of the Glinka/Balakirev Lark, which was, in turn, chaste, fluttery and brilliant.

He then turned to several groups of Scriabin works, all of which he played through without a break. There was never a false step here; Mr. Alexeev is a wonderful Scriabin player! He understands this composer's fantastical, quasi-psychedelic language and speaks (plays) it fluently. One appreciated especially the contrasting moods of the Preludes and the two Etudes, the first languid, the second having a restless tension leading eventually to a huge welter of sound.

In the Chopin Mazurkas I came to appreciate somewhat more than in the Blumenstück his approach to rubato. I was reminded of Moritz Rosenthal, not because Mr. Alexeev sounds like him but because Rosenthal never played a note which wasn't "interpreted." Every note and phrase had an intentional idea, an expressive context behind it. Nothing was played without thought. The same could be said, and appreciated, about Mr. Alexeev's interpretation of the Mazurkas. Although one could occasionally feel the use of rubato was again a bit extreme everything was meaningful, and played with beautiful tone, and color. I was actually sometimes convinced, to my own surprise!

Mr. Alexeev concluded the official program with a rousing performance of the Chopin A Flat major Polonaise. The playing was grand, the octave section was fast, and the audience reacted with great enthusiasm.

Four encores followed: a Chopin Mazurka in F minor, the famous Scriabin D Sharp minor Etude, the Rachmaninoff Prelude in G Sharp minor, and the E minor Waltz of Chopin. The Chopin works were delightful, the Rachmaninoff Prelude was very fine, and the Scriabin was fantastic!

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