Russian pianist Gleb Ivanov gave a recital Friday night at the Massry Center for the Arts that began in an unassuming way but ended in epic style.
Ivanov’s big win came in 2005, the year he graduated from the Moscow Conservatory and won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions. Although he’s accumulated many rave reviews since then — including debut recitals at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and the Kennedy Center — most of his solo and concerto appearances have not been at major venues. Based on his Friday showing, that will hopefully change.
Ivanov began with two contrasting sonatas by Schubert. The first, Sonata in A Major, Op. 120, was ever tuneful, with three fairly short movements. Ivanov used a light touch, subtle nuances, gentle phrasing and good pedaling for the first two movements and more flair and an agile technique in the quick finale. Somewhere in the finale, there was a subtle shift of tension as Ivanov’s nerves loosened and he became more comfortable.
In the second, Sonata in A minor, the three movements had more drama, with heavy chordal passages. But Ivanov kept a mellow, transparent tone, allowed for delicate touches when possible and maintained technical clarity. He was adept in the spirited finale, with its shifts in style among frothy, very fast passages, big chords and lyrical rolling sections, and added a fiery excitement. The attentive crowd loved it.
Resphigi’s Nocturne in G-flat Major was a delicate, sweetly sad song whose melody had cascading and rippling filigree. Ivanov stroked the song with much feeling, but this short piece, to which, interestingly, no one applauded, was to set up the evening’s focal point: Liszt’s Sonata in B minor.
A test for any pianist — from its menacing beginning to the final notes of glorious acceptance — the work is 30 minutes of non-stop virtuosity, with extremely difficult technical demands, broad emotional shifts and the need for physical stamina. Ivanov was in command and in control, impressing with his pacing within the sensational technical displays and his sensitivity in the poetic, romantic passages. His focus, intensity and probing musical intelligence were unflagging.
The crowd sighed, Ivanov wiped his brow, and then he got a standing ovation. As an encore, he played the haunting Bach/Ziloti Prelude in B minor as a subtle meditation.
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