Ablogin brings bracing individuality to Frost Chopin Festival opener

By Lawrence Budmen

Dmitry Ablogin performed at the opening concert of the Frost Chopin Festival Sunday afternoon at Gusman Concert Hall. Photo: Redi Llupa

The fifth annual Frost Chopin Festival opened Sunday afternoon with a high-voltage program shared by pianists Kamil Pacholec and Dmitry Ablogin at the University of Miami’s Gusman Concert Hall.

Ablogin was clearly an audience favorite and it was easy to understand why. He is a larger-than-life personality who puts a decisive interpretive stamp on everything he plays. A teacher at the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts, the Russian pianist is a multiple competition winner.

Ablogin opened the concert’s second half with Haydn’s Sonata in C minor. While considered the father of the symphony and the string quartet, the keyboard was not his métier. Haydn’s piano sonatas are formulaic essays that usually lack the innovation and individuality  that mark his greatest scores.

And yet Ablogin almost made the Haydn sonata sound like an important statement. His sensitive traversal of the second movement was the epitome of elegance—gracious with a finely shaped sense of flow and structure. His incisive rhythmic lift turned the mundane final Allegro into an appealing romp, drawing prolonged applause.

Beethoven’s Rondo in C Major was played with the utmost attention to classical style and propulsion. Although phrased in an even and steady manner, the tempestuous central episode displayed Ablogin’s bravura side.

There was a feathery touch and sparkle in Ablogin’s approach to Schubert’s Impromptu No. 2 in E-flat Major but he summoned fire and power from the Steinway when called for. The Impromptu No. 3 in G-flat Major proved exceptional in Ablogin’s fresh reading. Through supple coloration and beautifully proportioned lyricism, Ablogin removed the dust from this familiar encore piece to reveal the beauty and mastery of Schubert’s creative genius in miniature.

The Sonata in C Major, K. 545, is one of Mozart’s most familiar works but Ablogin’s quirky performance proved an ear opener. The initial Allegro was taken at a fast clip, the figurations given terse emphasis. Despite the interpretive eccentricities, Ablogin’s dynamics remained admirably restrained and classically gauged. The deliberate Andante emerged ith lovely tonal shading and a trace of romantic allure. The concluding Allegretto was thrown off with considerable elan and immaculate articulation.

Vociferous bravos from an audience that was nearly unanimously on its feet brought Ablogin back for two encores by the festival’s namesake. Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat Major, Op. 9, no.2 resounded with poetic overtones and the Waltz in C-sharp minor, Op. 6, no.2 benefited from subtle rubato and gradations of pulse. Ablogin’s brief sampling clearly demonstrated that he is an outstanding Chopin player.

Kamil Pacholec performed music of Chopin and Schumann at the Frost Chopin Festival. Photo: Redi Llupa

In the program’s first half, Polish pianist Kamil Pacholec disaplayed a strong technique and interpretive skills. A laureate of several major competitions, Pacholec is currently pursuing doctoral studies at the UM Frost School of Music under Chopin festival director Kevin Kenner. He opened with an introspective view of Chopin’s Waltz in F minor, Op. 70, no. 2 and a light and breezy Waltz in F Major, Op. 34, no.3.

Schumann’s Waldszenen (Forest Scenes) was his main offering and Pacholec largely succeeded in evoking Schumann’s songful panorama. The introductory “Entrance” was atmospheric with Pacholec demonstrating warmth of tone and feeling. The abrupt chords and pauses of “Hunters on the Lookout” were effectively conveyed but “Lonely Flowers” was too restrained and the foreboding aura of “Haunted Palace” was simialrly muted 

Pacholec made the  melodic paths of “Friendly Landscape” seem almost Chopinesque. The vigor of a folksong alighted “Wayside Inn.” Pacholec brought out Schumann’s imaginative harmonics in the tonal portrait of “The Prophet Bird.” 

A festive “Hunting Song” and expansive “Farewell” concluded the performance on a high note. Pacholece evidenced a fine affinity for Schumann’s idiom and one looks forward to hearing more from this gifted young artist.

The Frost Chopin Festival presents Kevin Kenner playing “Switzerland” from Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage (Years of Pilmgrimage) and academy students JingEn Chen, Vojtech Trubac and Carey Byron playing works by Chopin 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at UM Gusman Concert Hall in Coral Gables. frostchopinfestival.com

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Mon Jun 26, 2023
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