The Pianist Pavel Kolesnikov Makes a Rare Visit to New York

Few pieces in the piano repertoire reveal the individuality of the performer as much as Bach’s Goldberg Variations. There are few tempo or articulation instructions, forcing a certain interpretation. It’s hard to think of a better personality test than this.

Except maybe programming. A pianist’s choice of what to play can be even more enlightening than the performance itself. A recital may focus on a single composer or group several sonatas together. But more conceptually, there’s also another route to editing things that are more like playlists.

for two nights At the Park Avenue Armory This week in Manhattan, pianist Pavel Kolesnikov will share his artistry on both routes, with one concert dedicated to ‘Goldberg’ and another for a moody evening inspired by ‘Goldberg’. It was a collage. A collection of Joseph Cornell’s works “Celestial Navigation”.

Kolesnikov is a Russian-born, UK-based pianist who, at the age of 34, is already a heavyweight on the London music scene. He recorded “The Goldberg Family” and performed it with choreographer and performer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker. But he’s mostly disappeared from the New York stage.

That should not be. His two Armory recitals showcased a pianism of poetic freedom, demonstrating solid interpretative choices and a DJ’s ear for subtle musical connections.

His Bach is boldly debated, a performance that might invite disagreement, but is defended so convincingly that even detractors can’t help but appreciate it. do not have. His interpretation of Goldberg, a return to the original theme with 30 variations on the aria, is openly personal, the score like a palette-filled coloring book of Kolesnikov’s work. bottom.

In Bach’s mathematical structure, the 32 movements are reflected in the 32 bars of the aria, which is divided into two 16-bar passages, both of which are repeated. This structure is repeated throughout. Like most pianists, Kolesnikov approached the first part of each passage candidly, delineating the exact structure of the score in vivid detail.

But on repeat, he seemed to subject the structure to a stress test. Shadowy phrases with anachronistic nuances, with almost constant pedal work. One variation can blend into another, for example, the G at the end of the 5th is kept in the first bar of his 6th, which starts on the same note. The qualibe variations emerged from a haze of sustained hammered chords at the end of the 29th.

This was a far too modern interpretation of ‘Goldberg’ for historically based performance purists, but at the same time it was far from the languid indulgence of Lang Lang’s controversial recordings. There was also something. It wasn’t until I went back to Kolesnikov’s notes from his second recital that I described his treatment of the aria resurrection as shoppinist. It turns out that it was just a term to describe his program “Celestial Navigation (after Joseph Cornell)”. “

Cornell’s sculptural assemblage quietly evokes how humans have understood the night sky, with references to myth and science, and translates it into music, like Kandinsky’s synesthesia paintings. is not suitable. But Kolesnikov’s program is deftly similar in its juxtaposition, a combination that seems unlikely to be bound by something more sublime than aesthetics or time.

It’s always refreshing to see musicians interacting with other mediums, and it’s not new to Kolesnikov. He also organized a Proust-inspired recital. As a conceptual thinker, he resembles the pianist Vikingur Olafsson. But where Olafsson approaches programming like an essayist developing constellation arguments, Kolesnikov fosters atmosphere. His performance in the Armory attracted like-minded poets.

The centerpiece of the evening was a trio suite following the basic structure of Messiaen’s piano solos, Chopin’s nocturnes and fragmentary retellings of Messiaen. Surrounding them was the pavane of Louis Couperin (not the famous François). Ravel’s “The Bulk of the Sea”. and “Darknesse Visible,” inspired by Thomas Adès’ Dowland. And in the second half, Kolesnikov closed with Schubert’s D.935 Impromptu.

Covering nearly 350 years of musical history, these works cannot belong in the same sonic world. But Kolesnikov brought them as close together as possible, again applying modern pedalwork to the Baroque, using Chopin as a stylistic anchor. As a result, he was often disoriented. Messiaen’s colors were brighter and brighter, while Schubert leaned toward Romanticism with more raw emotion.

Kolesnikov’s drowsiness wrapped in blankets removed even stormy passages like memories, and in one of Chopin’s nocturnes, “could have danced all night” blissful moments. These were singular interpretations to serve the larger whole.

Like “The Goldbergs”, some of it could be considered blasphemy. perhaps. What is incontrovertible, however, is that Kolesnikov was given two chances to reveal himself to New York, revealing what kind of pianist he was, fully, confidently, and eloquently. You declared it yourself.

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