Aleksandr Bolotin - Summit Music Festival

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Donald Isler
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Aleksandr Bolotin - Summit Music Festival

Post by Donald Isler » Tue Jul 31, 2018 9:32 pm

The Classical Music Guide
Aleksandr Bolotin, Piano
28th Summit Music Festival
Purchase, New York
July 30th, 2018

Chopin: Four Mazurkas, Op. 30
Chopin: Fantasy in F Minor, Op. 49
Chopin: 24 Preludes, Op. 28

Aleksandr Bolotin is an extraordinary 17 year old Russian pianist who has already performed all over Europe, and won many awards. He is currently a student of Alexander Sandler at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, but has come to America almost every summer for the past ten years to study with Efrem Briskin. One of the remarkable things about him is that he doesn't seem like a young man out to "wow" the world with his playing. On the contrary, he has the demeanor of a mature artist, whose sole aim is play the music as well as he can. Nothing is done for "show;" he is all "business."

He started this all-Chopin program with the four Mazurkas of Op. 30. Bolotin has a particular gift for playing mazurkas. No, they don't sound like mazurkas as played by Friedman, Horowitz, or anyone else. They sound like Bolotin, whose special qualities in these pieces include a plan for everything (one could tell that from the first phrase of the first mazurka), a feeling of spontaneity (despite the plan), a remarkable range of expression, the ability to repeat sections with subtle differences when they return, and original ideas. The B Minor Mazurka had great freedom, the D-Flat Major had a very grand opening, yet a winsome second theme, and the C-Sharp Minor was played in a very individual, yet convincing manner.

The Fantasy was also impressively played. Bolotin started slowly, but in a manner that held one's attention. The theme on the second page was beautifully played, and just a bit faster. The section in A-Flat Major with eighth notes in the right hand against triplets in the left was very expressive. Also notable were the powerful outward octaves, the way he played the solemn theme in B Major, and the pedal effect in the quasi-recitativo section on the last page.

I could imagine a book being written on how to play the 24 Preludes of Chopin based on Bolotin's performance; it was that good. Among the many features of his interpretation were the unusually expressive way he played the grinding-along left hand in No. 2, the gurgling brook of No. 3, how he made a "boring" two note melody in No. 4 sound interesting, the exuberant No. 11, and the intense No. 12. Also, the simple and lovely theme of No. 15 with the contrasting ghostly middle section, and the ferocious No. 16, where he exacted remarkable clarity out of a torrent of running notes in the right hand while also powerfully bringing out the left hand. Coming into the "home stretch," No 22 was fast and wild, and No. 23 was rippling, peaceful and sensuous, with a meaningful leaning on that, oh so important E-Flat in the penultimate measure. The final Prelude started in an understated manner but quickly became fierce. The heroic sounding arpeggiation of the left hand was heard against the dramatic scales, arpeggios and thirds in the right hand. The end was enormously powerful.

Aleksandr Bolotin played one encore, Chopin's Berceuse. He started it at a beautiful, natural-sounding tempo, though later it seemed a bit fast. However, there were many lovely effects, subtle shadings, and a wonderful conclusion.

Donald Isler
Donald Isler

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