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Gavrylyuk Great in Prokofiev’s Piano Concert




Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra


Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, May 19th


Serge Prokofiev was not only a composer but a great pianist as well. His unconditional way of playing and steel touch were completely new at a time when Romanticism had just ended. Prokofiev demanded the same style of playing from his performers, particularly in his second piano concerto, opus 16. This 4 piece work demands a great deal of accuracy, strength and stamina from the soloist.


Prokofiev himself played his piano concerto for the first time in Amsterdam with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1929. It has only been heard occasionally since, because this piece remains an unassailable fortress for a lot of pianists. Even though it opens quietly and evocatively, very quick tempi and powerful dynamics dominate in the four parts.

Eighty years on, this concerto was heard in the Concertgebouw in a performance of which Prokofiev would have been proud: the young Ukrainian Alexander Gavrylyuk, who seemed to possess real strength in spite of his frail build. During the complex cadenza he developed a strength of sound only slightly inferior to the entire Concertgebouw Orchestra playing at full power. He interpreted the perpetuum mobile of part 2 sparklingly. It was only in the finale that he was able to show that he possessed lyrical qualities too. Maybe that was why as an encore he decided to play Rachmaninov’s Vocalise with a velvety softness.




The soundness of Gavrylyuk’s teamwork was only possible because guest director Mikhail Pletnev, a first class pianist as well, created with his precise tense conducting a frame onto which the soloist could build seamlessly.


The entire program was Russian. After the barrenness of Prokofiev’s piano concerto came the dark sounds of Rachmaninov’s symphonic poem “The Isle of the Dead”. At first it did not seem that Pletnev would be able to get rid of the businesslike way of which Prokofiev was so keen. But during the climax Pletnev’s presentation gained more plasticity.


He continued this line in “Le poême de l’extase” by Alexander Skrjabin.

This multicolored orgy of sound was as grist to the mill for the soundmaker that Pletnev often is as a pianist. He even got so swept into a state of ecstasy that he lost his baton - which landed between the violinists.


Christo Lelie

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