International Keyboard Institute & Festival 2017 in New York City—

A review by Donald Isler (from the Classical Music Guide)

19th International Keyboard Institute and Festival at Hunter College—July 28th, 2017


Schubert: Impromptus, D. 935, No. 1 and 3

Schumann: Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op. 26

Blumenfeld: Moment Lyrique in E-Flat Minor, Op. 27, No. 1

Lyadov: Barcarolle, Op. 44

Scriabin: Prelude in G Major, Op. 11, No. 3

Prelude in G Minor, Op. 27, No. 1

Prelude in B Major, Op. 27, No. 2

Poème languide, Op. 52, No. 3

Prelude, Op. 49, No. 2

Sonata No. 6, Op. 62

Rachmaninoff: Prelude in E-Flat Major, Op. 23, No. 6

Prelude in C Minor, Op. 23, No. 7

Prelude in G Major, Op. 32, No. 5

Prelude in G-Sharp Minor, Op. 32, No. 12

Prelude in B-Flat Major, Op. 23, No. 2

Dmitry Rachmanov is a busy man, constantly travelling around the world to perform and teach master classes. Those who are fortunate to be acquainted with him know him as a gracious and modest friend. He is also a very admirable pianist, who plays big programs of music he cares deeply about, and presents with impressive technique. And it is clear from their reaction how much his audience appreciates him.

Mr. Rachmanov began with two Impromptus of Schubert, which are impressive in their size and scope, especially if one has not heard them in awhile. The F Minor Impromptu was strong and sensitive, with an impassioned middle section. His playing of the B-Flat Major Impromptu, which is a theme with variations, had many fine features, such as playfulness in the variation with triplets, and the melodrama of the B-Flat Minor variation. Where tastes vary is deciding how “romantic” a composer Schubert was, especially regarding tempo fluctuation. Mr. Rachmanov seems to favor using significantly more rubato than do many other pianists. In the B-Flat Major Impromptu there were even places where the hands were not played together, an expressive device this listener would associate more with Chopin than with Schubert.

The first movement of the Faschingsschwank aus Wien was played vigorously, and he brought out the quirks of the first interlude, and the nuances of the G Minor section. The slow second movement was painfully beautiful, with a very effective conclusion. The third movement was played a bit slower than it is sometimes heard, and was followed, in turn, by the passionate fourth movement, and the finale, which had an exciting “race to the finish!”

Mr. Rachmanov’s performance of the Blumenfeld Moment Lyrique, at the beginning of the second half, was absolutely wonderful, warm, lush and exotic. If I never hear it played better I won’t complain!

He then played the Lyadov Barcarolle after which he immediately went into his Scriabin group, which he played through, without pause, to the end. He is a founding member of the Scriabin Society of America, and is justly noted for his performances of the music of this composer. He offered a generous portion of Scriabin’s unique idiom, full of hypnotic and supernatural effects, brilliant trills, disjointed-sounding sections, and other sometimes bizarre and/or eerie features.

Very fine, too, were his performances of the Rachmaninoff Preludes. The first Prelude was languid, and the second was powerful, with turbulent torrents of notes. In the third, he returned, in a moving way, from the intense G Minor middle section to the first, gentle theme in G Major. His playing with degrees of intensity in the fourth Prelude worked very well, and the concluding B-Flat Prelude was appropriately strong, and grand.

Mr. Rachmanov played one encore, the Poème, Op. 32, No. 1, which was playful and surreal, with lovely shadings.

Donald Isler