ALEXEY TRUSHECHKIN returned to the Aptos Keyboard Series at John the Baptist Episcopal on Sunday to once again affirm his authority as a musician and fine artist. Happily, the recently acquired Kawai grand was in better fettle than when I first heard it, brand new and literally right out of the box. In other words, it honored the artist and the music without calling attention to itself.
Trushechkin—too many superfluous letters—Alexey opened with a Sonata in A-flat (Hob XVI:46) by Haydn, a composer favored by pianists for warming up, but here presented as that jewel Haydn hid in plain sight. Trouble is, too many pianists load on depths of expression that are out of character with the music, and, more on point, the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ composer himself. Not here. Alexey kept it simple, clean and enchanting. Yet he made sure the middle movement, Adagio, sang its sweet song.
Works of Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Skriabin made up the rest of the program. Brahms’ Fantasies, Op 116, are the least often heard of the composer’s late miniatures to be played in sequential order. Nominally, they consist of three capriccios and four intermezzos, and invite artists to become poets, in the manner of Chopin. The capriccios (nos. 1, 3 and 7 respectively) are agitated, almost irritable in character, the intermezzos more circumspect. At least that’s how Alexey presented them, even though to my ears they sounded less wholly in his native musical language than the Russian music of the program’s second half.
Alexey, now 29, has acquired awesome credentials, including the Neuhaus (teacher of Richter and Gilels) Competition, First Prize at the Skriabin International Competition in Paris (2015) and laureate of the Parnassos International Competition in Mexico.
Tchaikovsky’s “January” from The Months opened the second half, followed by selections from the Preludes Opp 23 & 32, the Etudes-tableaux Opp 33 & 39, plus the Polka de WR, by Rachmaninoff. These are some of the least often heard from those sources; the polka a virtuosic piece dedicated by its initials to the composer’s father. But for the latter, darkly grumbling moods alternated with sizzling, skittering bravura. (Due to a misprint in the program handout, the audience struggled to keep track of the sequence of events.)
The high point of the concert was Alexander Skriabin’s Sonata No 5, Op 53, at 13 minutes a brilliant tour de force that clearly reestablishes the composer’s avant-garde fearlessness, even while Rachmaninoff (his contemporary) and Prokofiev continued to enlarge the tonal continuity of the Tchaikovsky generation. Rare in his generation, Skriabin embraces Debussy and the Ravel of Gaspard de la nuit. Aptos Keyboard wants to bring Alexey back, hopefully with more Skriabin.
Encores included a Skriabin piece in memory of Grieg, and Grieg’s own Dance from Jolster.