For our end-of-season recital, we welcomed pianist Pavel Kolesnikov. His outstanding musicianship, total command over the performance, and intentional, purposeful programming and interpretation (he says “everything is intentional”) were evidently apparent. However, what left us with a striking and memorable impression was his sound quality and effects. Through them, he was able to convey his message to us in every piece.

CPE Bach’s Sonata in A was a delight. It showed off Pavel’s rhythmical dexterity, and all the notes were incredibly transparent and pure. The effective usage of sudden pauses certainly raised the audience’s curiosity. Magically, it sounded in some parts as if the piano had been transformed into a harpsichord.

Beethoven’s entrancing Sonata No. 10 followed. This was one of the occasions where you were reminded that Beethoven could be so beautiful and elegant. His caressing sensitivity and subtle nuances drew us in throughout.

Chopin’s Scherzo No. 4 was a drama that unfolded in front of us. It demonstrated the strong lyricism and poetic side of Pavel’s playing, as well as powerful dynamism and overflowing emotion. The sounds were well projected and balanced, and even when played at maximum volume, it was not overwhelming - we were wrapped in a magnificent sound blanket.

Debussy’s Preludes were, I felt, beyond piano playing. Totally atmospheric, the intriguing mood changes throughout the pieces pushed our imagination. In Voiles, I felt as if we were boxed in a mysterious ‘out-of-world’ space. The sounds hovered around weightlessly in the air and the almost harp-sounding ascending scales created illusions. One of the most notable characterisations Pavel produced was the sense of distance. For example, in Le vent dans la plaine (The wind in the plain), the sound of the wind reached us as if it had traveled from afar. In Les sons e les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir, the slightly perfumed air swirled and drifted in mid-flight. In Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest, one could really sense that the music traveled – one moment we heard the wave of sounds in the far distance, the next moment it dynamically ran towards us. Minstrels was endlessly witty, which bought smiles to the audience. Over all, countless uniqueness on top of his meticulous execution - it was engaging, intimate and involving. 

The very last piece, for encore, was the desperately dreamy Chopin’s Waltz in A flat major

After the concert, Pavel told me that normally when designing a programme he was careful to include clear contrasts such as light and shadow, but that today’s programme did not have them. Instead he created the programme with pieces in the first half which would gradually build up to Debussy’s Preludes in the second half, relying not on a logical theory but more on his intuition. And it worked beautifully. 

Pavel also told me that he had enjoyed performing to such an appreciative audience at Breinton!


  • C.P.E. Bach:  Sonata in A major
  • Beethoven:  Piano Sonata No. 10 in G major, Op. 14 No. 2
  • Chopin:  Scherzo No. 4 in E, Op. 54
  • Debussy:  Preludes, Book 1, No. 1-12

Pavel Kolesnikov

Following Russian pianist Pavel Kolesnikov’s Wigmore Hall debut in January 2014, The Telegraph gave his recital a rare five-star review and called it “one of the most memorable of such occasions London has witnessed in a while.” Since becoming Prize Laureate of the Honens Prize for Piano in 2012, Kolesnikov has been winning hearts around the world. A live recording of his prize-winning performances was released on the Honens label in March 2013, about which the BBC Music Magazine wrote “tremendous clarity, unfailing musicality and considerable beauty”.