Stanislav Khristenko


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Ukrainian pianist Stanislav Khristenko broke through to American audiences as the winner of the Cleveland International Piano Competition, and it is heartening to see him capitalize on that triumph not with a splashy performance of standard concerto repertoire but with this thoughtful recital. Its title can be taken two ways: the four works on the program are a collection of fantasies, but also an exploration of the concept as it developed in the late 19th century. Khristenko is a rather quiet pianist with a strong ability to sustain works that develop in a complex, organic way. He bookends the program with two of these, the Schumann Fantasie in C major, Op. 17, and the extremely intricate Fantasies, Op. 116, of Brahms. One might ask what the iron motivic logic of these works, which appealed so much to Schoenberg, Webern, and company, has to do with fantasy, but Khristenko gives them a mysterious mood and brings out the unusual melodic shapes that set the development in motion. In between are two rarely played works, each of them delightful. Anton Bruckner's Fantasie in G major, one of very few keyboard pieces he wrote, is an early work that presents the composer's expansive melody in miniature. And Alexander Zemlinsky's Fantasies on Poems by Richard Dehmel, another figure beloved by Schoenberg, are songs without words for the end of the century, dreamy and dense explorations of the mood of the four poems. It might have been nice to have the texts of these, but otherwise the presentation and engineering live up to the high standards that have been set by the Steinway & Sons label. Highly recommended.

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