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Scion and Skyline: A Stunning Duo

New York
07/11/2008 -  & July 12, 13
Franz Josef Haydn: Sonata in G Major, Hob. XVI.6
Robert Schumann: 2 Klavierstücke in Fughettenform, opus 126 – Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op. 26
Alexander Scriabin Sonata-Fantasia No. 2 in G-Sharp minor, Opus 19
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Opus 42 – Moments Musicaux, Opus 16 #3, 4

Anya Alexeyev (Piano)

How blissful to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in summer, climbing up the little gangplank and walking into BargeMusic. BargeMusic is one of New York’s most splendid traditions, a floating concert hall (sometimes actually rolling, to the despair of uninitiated artists) with the most stunning view of all Manhattan! Over the years, they have offered a variety of artists, from the mediocre to the very best. For the latter, one can be seduced by the music, the view across the East River, the good sonorities and the collegial atmosphere.

Last year, BargeMusic brought together the great Russian pianist Dmitri Alexeyev and his daughter Anya, performing four-hand music. Alas, I was away for that recital, but last night, Ms. Alexeyev performed solo, with a final half that fit her emotions like Beluga fits blinis.

It is hardly a surprise that Ms. Alexeyev takes after her father. Consanguine genius seems to run through Russia, from the Oistrahks to the Shostakoviches to, now, the Alxeyevs. Anya, teaching in Canada, has performed with the world’s great orchestras, but like her father, she is most at home with the great works of Russia itself.

Which is why one had to question why she began with a Haydn sonata. There was nothing wrong with this rare four-movement work, and parts of the second movement Trio the adagio were charming. But outside of showing Ms. Alexeyev’s wonderful trill technique (virtually every third note was a trill), it was barely distinguished music .

Essaying two of Schumann’s fugues was equally a rarity, yet it simply showed how the composer knew his archaic counterpoint. But with the Vienna carnival music, Ms. Alexeyev came into her own. The opening showed the structure of the piece, even bringing out that secret Marseilles, and playing the third theme gorgeously. But in the third and fourth movement, she showed intimations of what the second half would bring. The scherzino was deliciously bouncy (and we could well have whistled along with it). That haunting intermezzo almost had a Slavic feeling under her fingers. It was bleak music, troubling music, it was playing from personal depths. Only in the last movement did she wish to impress her audience with digital speed (and consequently one or two errors).

The second half was all Russian, though . Scriabin’s Sonata-Fantasie was the “easy” early Scriabin. The second movement, in fact, had an opening that could have been composed by Mendelssohn, though it gathered strength under her fingers. ending with Slavic thunder.

Now came the longest work, Rachmaninoff’s Corelli Variations., and one couldn’t have asked for anything more exciting. For sheer breathlessness, the 5,th, 7th and 18th were played with dazzling fingerwork (yet always keeping that folia theme somewhere on the piano)., toward the end, when the theme gets lost in the shuffle, Ms. Alexeyev played the gamut from the almost-sentimental to simply tossing off the 17th variations. The coda brought this thesaurus of emotions to a reverent close.

The third Moment Musicaux wistfully echoed the Corelli theme, but the final Rachmaninoff was a bravura finale for Anya Alexeyev and time to walk across the bridge again, with lines of Whitman and Hart Crane somehow set to Russian music.

CODA: Ms. Alexeyev gives two more performances, tonight at 8pm and tomorrow at 4pm, but here joined by a violinist and cellist in an all-Russian program. Prokofiev’s First Violin Sonata, Schnittke’s Cello Sonata and an Arensky Trio. Definitely worth the trip from Manhattan… or anywhere else.

Harry Rolnick



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