Vadym Kholodenko, October 6, 2013

Vadym Kholodenko unforgettable in Carmel


By John Orlando

Deserving Van Cliburn Competition Gold Medalist Vadym Kholodenko performed on the Carmel Music Society’s 87th concert season yesterday and, truly, whatever he touched on the piano did turn to gold. His performance was the most satisfying musical event in my memory, save some by pianists we now consider to be legendary (Rubinstein, Horowitz, even Rachmaninoff and the like). As a friend commented, “today, we were in the presence of greatness.”

Vadym Kholodenko is a pianist’s pianist and a pianophile’s ideal. There was nothing in his playing I didn’t like, but what I loved was his masterful sound which was smooth, warm, mellifluous, always present and which, by some uncanny means, filled the hall with a commanding presence never leaving us to wonder where the music was going or what was meant to be heard.

I confess that I wasn’t enthusiastic about hearing a recital primarily made up of transcriptions. I’ve changed my mind. Beginning with Rachmaninoff’s monumental and rarely performed first sonata, the program then became a testament to the genius of other composers as seen through the mind of Rachmaninoff. The sonata itself is not a perfectly crafted musical work, but parts of it are excellent. As Kholodenko demonstrated, those parts were well worth hearing. The transcriptions, on the other hand, offered pianistic writing at its finest, presenting technical and musical challenges precious few concert performers could match. For Vadym, they were a breeze to play.

Kholodenko appears to have everything: he is a natural, possessing a profound talent, an effortless technical ability that is beyond the demands of even the most difficult works for the instrument, a gorgeous sound and a superior musical intellect.

What I found equally remarkable was what wasn’t there. Although none of us was excluded from the performance he appeared to play as if we weren’t there. His total focus was in service to the works he performed. Likewise, the performance never suggested a hint of sentimentality and never did he call attention to his own importance. 

The playing was always stylistically appropriate, insightful and transporting. The Kreisler-Rachmaninoff Liebesfreud that concluded his program was like a glass of musical champagne, as effervescent as the gaiety of La Belle Époque. It was a marvelous afternoon of music.

Look for his next performance and experience the extraordinary talent of this young artist for yourself.