Italy: / L'Ape musicale / 24.03.2019. (link)

A festive dual performance concert by Malofeev / Valchuha. It features an unusually large repertoire.

Do not be confused by the name. Nobody is going to dispute the value of Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1896). To the opposite, everybody can confirm his significance. Something similar can be noticed about football champions of the past. Their achievements are still admired today. One can merely fantasize about the prices of Tchaikovsky’s works on the modern market. Given that his Concert no. 1 in B-flat minor opus. 23 (1874-75) is an irresistable piece of music. It feels like the piece itself encourages You to go back to the crowded music halls. This happened in the past, and it’s happening now. This tendency will also remain for many years in the future. The magnificence of this piece is also reflected by the sellout during the concerts that took place on Thursday, March 21, and Friday, March 22. Over 1500 seats were occupied in “Auditorium RAI Arturo Toscanini” concert hall. This hall was the favorite place for performances by Russian musicians in the nineteenth century. Now, this experience will be also shared by the seventeen-year-old compatriot of the abovementioned musicians, Alexander Malofeev.

Speaking about the first performance of the musician in Torino last spring, one must note that musical tastes of experts were aroused by an extract from an exquisite work, which was the “Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini” by Rachmaninov. The conductor at the concert was Myung-Whun Chung, a true virtuoso of his art. His return to Mole-Antonelliana, side-by-side with Yurai Valchuha, is happening right now. He returns, performing this extract from a famous piece. Malofeev features a selling talent, and he will not be intimidated by comparisons with other musicians and tests. Comparisons and tests are inevitable when you deal with such repertoire. He adopts his vision of a piece once, and never changes it since. His performance can hardly be called a goal in itself and a desire to “play virtuoso”. He also features a set of well-trained technical skills and stunning performance technique. The first part is dominated by the feeling of a good balance (the extract is played fluently, but not too much, with a bit of grandeur), it is also visible at times in the constituent parts of the piece. Too often they are played “to the limit”, and a lot of pianists add too many improvisations. This way, pianists try to make it sound more dramatic: they touch the keys passionately, but with restraint. They never use pedals more often than necessary. The conductor generously drives the motives of the melodies with his beats. He transmits each note with resonating sharpness, revealing the deepest essence of the Russian soul. The initial chords are played with grandeur. Octaves flow in mind-boggling cascades. Chromaticisms, which look like turbulent offshoots of the melody, accompanied by bass sounds. Lengthy modulations of the soloist, accompanied by the finger movements of the young man, gain unrestrained cheerfulness and can limitlessly evoke various emotions. Besides the battle on the field located within the tortured soul, one can also feel epic cadences. Like a flowing river painted by the brush of Tolstoy. Incredibly stirring tragedies and confessions, which are exposed willingly and without any pomposity. They are fused to create a story about the divine light of the soul. This soul reveals its merits on the pages of the work which is often accused of excessive sentimentalism. The rationality of Valchuha’s approach to the musical work is demonstrated, for example, by the way that he puts the orchestra into the foreground. His motions at that moment are swift, retaining the overall vigor. At the same time, this preserves the pathos and the spirit of the performance, which is transmitted uninterruptedly by piano performance.

While the piece is performed in a simple, increasingly lively “Andantino” tempo, the dialogue with the flute becomes sensuous with rustic flavor. At the same time, it retains its naturality, unlike the vivid central part of the piece. It is played as fast as possible. Such experimental platform was critically vital for the whole performance: Malofeev performs it, retaining the purity of the timbre and violent intensity. Also, while playing “Allegro”, the sensation of passion at the end, the combination of drive and lyricism provides the foundation for introduction of an impressive motive. It is played with increasing force. The aim of this technique is to invoke an endless roar of applause from the audience, to literally bring them to a wild extasy. If possible, one needs to instill even more awe by performing the piece three more time as an encore. One can afford to improvise in such scenario: a small concert within a concert. As part of it, one can perform “Seasons of the year” and “The Nutcracker” by Tchaikovsky. They serve as the framework for the stunning and transcendental “Toccata” by Prokofiev. Even if they played only “Toccata”, the price of the ticket would be reasonable.

Alberto Ponti.