Vadym Kholodenko: Gold Medalist - 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

Vadym Kholodenko

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Vadym Kholodenko: Gold Medalist - 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Review

by James Manheim

"The Fort Worth crowd cheered him like a rock star," says a review reproduced, in English-German-French triplicate, on the cover of this live release by Ukrainian pianist Vadym Kholodenko, the winner of the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Perhaps all the applause stemmed from the desire of the residents of the city affectionately called Cowtown to enjoy their quadrennial moment in the classical music spotlight, or perhaps they enjoyed the symmetry by which the festival's namesake conquered the old East Bloc, and now a pianist from that part of the world has triumphed in Fort Worth. Be all that as it may, the fact is that Kholodenko is a remarkable talent. The effect is magnified a bit by the fact that this recording splices together several performances from the two weeks of the festival, as well as one (and this is really cause for a few demerit points) recorded several years earlier in Russia. But the collection showcases a performer who is light-years away from the fearful, conformist ways of so many competition pianists. The Trois Mouvements de Pétrouchka, piano arrangements of three familiar numbers from Igor Stravinsky's ballet, is an unusual choice for such a recital, but in Kholodenko's hands it is revelatory: on the keyboard, Stravinsky's links to the grand Russian tradition are almost tangible. The Transcendental Etudes of Liszt are also very strong. There are pianists who can make them rumble and sparkle with greater intensity, but it's rare to hear another one who can bring the composer alive and give him something of the personality fleshed out in Ken Russell's film Lisztomania: outsized, vain, insanely ambitious. The point of these quintessentially virtuoso pieces lies as much in the slow passages as in the keyboard-spanning ones in Kholodenko's hands. Heavily edited it may be, but Harmonia Mundi's live sound is quite clear and rich, and it provides a nice space for a young pianist to watch.

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