Alexei Grynyuk – I adore this pianist!
He started with five Scarlatti sonatas (out of some 550 compositions!). I do not know how Alexei selected these ones, but they were indeed excellently selected and I felt they enabled Alexei to demonstrate his artistry to the maximum with contrasting characteristics in texture, voice, and sonority. K87 was such a dreamy piece, with each layer of notes smoothly and thoughtfully connected. Delightful and light, K135 had a dance-like feel. K141 displayed successive sharp staccatos with light-weight left-hand chords. K466 was utterly and breathtakingly gorgeous, a wealth of true melodious beauty; its transparent clarity was out of this world. We all admired Alexei's finger work in the fast-tempo K20 which concluded this section. All the way through the Scarlatti, Alexei emphasized the melodic lines of each sonata, but, what was amazing to me was his left hand - his keyboard touch was extremely tender and gentle, resulting in such warm and pleasant sounds.
Alexei performed two pieces from his newly released Liszt CD: Sonnet No. 123 and Mephisto Waltz. I found the Sonnet so lyrical, picturesque, tranquil, and heart-felt. What he was able to do was to expand out of his piano playing and reach to the audience – it was almost like story-telling. I'm sure he was not consciously thinking all this when he played, but I certainly felt that way. It gave me a precious moment of imagination and contemplation, which reminded me of the warmth of a bed side story. Then we saw a drastic change in the mood with Mephisto Waltz. With this, both the volume and the momentum of the first half reached a climax.
Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition was truly exciting. From the first step into the Promenade until the grand and majestic exit at the Great Gate of Kiev, it was full of scenery changes, atmospheric effects, movements and commotions: exaggerated passages in Gnome described the grotesque appearance and wicked behaviours of a dwarf; Il vecchio castello was monotoned but expressed sadness at the same time; Ballet de poussins dans leurs coques was skittish and comical.
Alexei was a masculine performer, but by no means was his playing all about power. Actually what I really admired was the amazing subtlety. He had a wide range between fortissimo and pianissimo and the depth of his sounds. Contrasts between power and subtlety, light and dark, and angelic and evil feelings were all apparent but never artificial or overwhelming. His magnificent control of the instrument, maximum usage of technical skills and mindful artistic expression made this evening's recital special.
The first encore was Chopinâ's Nocturne No. 3. After the long and emotional visit to an Exhibition that involved a grotesque dwarf, lively animals, a wicked witch, an old castle and a spooky tomb, what a soul cleansing piece it was! Absolutely beautiful. Finally, we were brought back to the hottest heat by the next encore piece, Lisztâ's Hungarian Rhapsody. With our adrenalin running highest, the recital concluded with the sound of applause from the full house.