Khozyainov opens Miami Piano Festival with tasteful, searching performances

By Dorothy Hindman

Nikolay Khozyainov opened the Miami Piano Festival Thursday night at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach.

Twenty-year old Russian pianist Nikolay Khozyainov demonstrated substance over style in the opening concert of the Miami International Piano Festival’s Discovery series Thursday evening at Miami Beach’s Colony Theater.  In a program nearly duplicating his April 30th Carnegie Hall debut, Khozyainov delivered a compelling evening of masterworks, revealing a young artist more concerned with music than notes.

In Beethoven’s late Sonata No. 31, Op. 110, Khozyainov introduced the velvety tone and singing lines that would dominate his playing through out the evening. His primary focus is melody, and, while not overtly flashy, he is often captivating, conveying the sense that he genuinely feels what he plays.

A classically restrained reading of the Moderato cantabile molto espressivo highlighted the simplicity of Beethoven’s lines.  The more fragmentary Allegro moderato revealed a bit of Khozyainov’s muscle, although the repetitions could have used more differentiation.  Beethoven’s profound sense of struggle emerged in the final movement’s Arioso dolente, with Khozyainov capturing its searching quality through carefully treated dissonances and tasteful rubato. Surety of purpose and stricter tempos in the fugal sections provided respite from the questioning Ariosos.

In Sergei Prokofiev’s “Stalingrad”  Sonata No. 7, Khozyainov carefully delineated the craggier melodies and murky slow sections of the Allegro inquieto, guiding the listener with a clear sense of direction and momentum.  His velvety phrases were all-too briefly replaced by manic ferocity in the reprised Allegros, for a rare glimpse of fire.

Khozyainov treated the grotesquely nostalgic theme of the Andante caloroso with respect, using emerging dissonances and wandering harmonies to subtly and ironically color the mood. Dynamic shifts and a repeated bass motive shaped the final Precipitato.  Although Khozyainov occasionally allowed the edges to blur, an overall impression of mild restraint permeated.

Khozyainov’s understated technical virtuosity employs strongly curved fingers close to the keys for firm control.  This technique also yields an exquisitely tender gentleness, evinced most strongly in Chopin’s Berceuse Op. 57.  Over a just-barely-there left hand, Khozyainov illuminated the melody within each demanding variation for a transcendent rendition.

His take on Chopin’s Barcarolle was the one work characterized by a brighter, more glistening tone. Over perfectly smooth left hand lines, a light-hearted, flowing quality provided a slight departure from the more emotionally weighty works on the program.

Khozyainov’s sublimely quiet opening for Franz Liszt’s massive Sonata in B minor held the requisite mystery to propel the half-hour work.  Khozyainov again used melody to guide his audience through the ferocious upheaval of the opening sections, coming to fruition in the lyrical sections.  Always controlled and directed, Khozyainov conveyed the competing nature of Liszt’s themes well.  The few times he threw caution to the wind, as at the end of the fugal section, he left the audience wanting more.

Surprisingly, Khozyainov delivered just that in his second encore piece, the highly virtuosic Fantasy on Two Motives from “The Marriage of Figaro” by Liszt/Busoni.  The work revealed a completely different side of Khozyainov, an artist capable of the most ridiculously demanding passagework and a devil-may-care attitude.

The Miami International Piano Festival continues Friday night with Wolfram Schmitt.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Khozyainov opens Miami Piano Festival with tasteful, searching performances”

  1. Posted May 17, 2013 at 3:27 pm by Mark Patrick

    OK, so you think the young man isn’t flamboyant enough but he does have stage presence. Anyway, his Prokofieff was out of this world. His Liszt was very rhythmic and powerful in the notes where it’s supposed to be like that. After he performed the Lizst Sonata I really appreciated it when we, the audience, gave him stormy applause and a standing ovation and he came right out onto the stage and sat down and played us two fantastic encores! There was no fooling around with us. He’s a talented and generous musical artist with a bright future.

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Fri May 17, 2013
at 11:20 am
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