Reviews of the recital at the Menton Music Festival (03.08.2023)
🔷 Classiquenews / CRITICISM, concert. MENTON, Basilica of Saint-Michel Archange, August 3, 2023. Recital by ALEXANDER MALOFEEV, piano. JS Bach, Scriabin, Chopin, WAGNER / LISZT, WEINBERG…
From the outset, it is not in vain when the reality exceeds the promise, to note the immense poetic blossoming of a pianistic game, even that of a young player of…. 21 years old (!). The age does not forego the value of years or the precious fruits of long-term experience. Barely in his twenties, when it comes to the young Russian prodigy Alexander Malofeev, the imagination and technical intelligence are those of the greatest…
In service of a flawless sensitivity, astonishing even by the firm stances taken and its expressive customization, Alexander Malofeev dazzled on this evening of dreams, indisputably leaving a mark on the history of the Menton Festival. Here the eloquence of a dramaturgy constantly thought out, invested in and embodied appeals to the listening mind; delivering to the listener a whole personal journey, the dramaturgy of which captivates. Right down to the sounds that the artist sculpts into the most subtle of matter, strictly opposed to one-upsmanship and assumed hammering with a vengeance, exacerbated in certain places to the point of disgust. Malofeev weaves a remote silk, with a dazzling finish, which shows how much he absorbed each measurement, felt and experienced each note… The internality, a tenuous, channeled urgency, seems to carry all the nature of the game.
His prodigious technique allows him to make the keyboard sing while emphasizing the structure of the scores. Alexander Malofeev delivers a thoughtful, meticulously thought-out reading of each work that reveals not a virtuoso technician but a poet who testifies through the works to the sound visions inspired by the pieces. The attenuation, the suggestion, the inner song unfold without constraints in a middle path that finds its sovereign balance between Liszt and Chopin.
His preliminary Bach is of infinite tenderness, entirely restrained, curled up, in the heart; this softness of tone seems to hold the secret of the music; expressing it without totally revealing it [allegro]: especially the murmured adagio, is realized as a slow and deep critical introspection. Everything emerges in the song and the breath…
The second and last allegro affirms its frantic course with its vertiginous contrasts to which the committed play of the performer suddenly draws a symphonic framework, in breadth and urgency. This BACH is hypersensitive, originating from the shadows and never really leaving it. Hence the subterranean soundscapes, dreamlike ramblings as if distancing… This Bach is of a Goethean flame, totally, viscerally romantic, assumed as such.
Immediately the Scriabin reveals the character of the dream, like the reminiscence of a waltz with distant, authentically Chopinian scents. The artist literally juggles and subjugates in chiseled pianos, boundaries and markers of the dream.
Moreover, the piece immediately following is Chopin’s Sonata No.2, woven in the same personal silk, remarkably involved, with a naturalness that brings out the most dreamlike emotion; Melofeev regales us with velvet phrasing whose chiselling is part of the most tenuous form of suggestion.
The first 2 movements of the Chopin express a controlled instability, impulsive, of Schumanian essence, flow and discourse all at the same time; whose energy and dynamics make sense; the first seized by a feeling of madness, panic, dishevelment and traversed by visions of fleeting terror. The 2nd multiplies the sound planes in a preliminary primitive bath, something between trembling and fulgurance, preparing the way for the miraculous emergence of the 2nd motif, whose tenderness and candor overwhelm. The Marche stretches out its depressive knell which emerges from beyond the grave; its suspended, hypnotic song; here again it is the coherence of the sound, the deep unity of a conception so personal that captivates.
Once again at the heart of the movement that gives the title to this “funeral” Sonata, appears as in a miraculously preserved dream, the caressed, life-saving motif, which expresses his heartbreaking prayer. It is the miracle of the Bellinian song in the heart of darkness. Malofeev convinced by his majestic poetic construction; in the resumption of the marche, the interiority is further strengthened, in breadth and depth.
Weinberg spreads his light digressions that have the significance of Shostakovich: that of a false carefreeness that underlies a worried and deep consciousness, ready to roar and then hide … The pianist deduces a dreamy and turbid crossing, one which is also viscerally intranquile, all the more intense in the Scherzo which deploys this double reading. Malofeev grasps the strange and essentially enigmatic nature of it, nostalgia for a newfound candor of which he expresses at the same time the absolute, irremediable loss.
Very developed, the last movement sounds like a biting, bitter soliloquy, becoming gradually disenchanted and exhausting. In the meantime, the audience applauds to the point of breaking everything, conquered by this poetic force of which the blond elf is capable.
The opening of Wagner’s Tannhaüser, played in Liszt’s transcription, reveals the symphonic breadth and orchestral breath of which the Yamaha piano is capable under the fingers of the prodigious narrator. The whole score whispers and roars, from diabolical arpeggios to spider-like phrasing. Never decorative or strictly virtuoso, Malofeev here paints the portrait of the hero by highlighting in solid lines the middle of the operatic fable. By grasping sound pillars, which reveal the structure of the action, the pianist sketches what forms the essential profile of Tannhauser, a kind of Faust artist inhabited / overcome by the essential question of the meaning of life and the why of art. Such a question is obviously a source of passion for composers and performers. Alexander Malofeev delivers accents and tensions, in poetic crackles and furious flashes. It is a real physical and musical test that occupies the pianist from beginning to end, wishing to express everything surrounding such a hot subject. It is as striking for the ardent digital activity as the coherence of the so personal dramaturgy which results from it.
By Alexandre Pham, 04.08.2023
🔷 Voce di Mantova / Alexander Malofeev enchants at the Menton Music Festival
MENTON Our first opportunity to listen to him live was provided by the Menton Music Festival, a historic programme with 74 years of sumptuous tradition behind it, which was this year grouped into a dozen exquisite events, artfully combined by the direction of Paul Emmanuel Thomas, in the breathtaking setting of the Parvis de St. Michel Archange. In the open-air room perched, overlooking the sea, in the heart of the city’s old town, no longer a ‘child’ but still (and perhaps even more) of a prodigy, Alexander Malofeev offered the audience a recital of rare intensity, confirming once again his miraculous talent but, even before that, giving the coup de coeur of surprise and chance. Unpublished and unpredictable perspectives, solutions far from what would be expected and, in more than one case, dissonant with expectations, but never gratuitously eccentric, on the contrary revealing thinking of rock-steady coherence.
We remembered him in a rehearsal of the Tchaikovsky Competition a few years ago, when his overflowing instrumentality still paradoxically ended up obscuring the charm of the music, in the shadow of an air of apparent self-sufficiency with which everything, or almost everything, was faced and resolved. Today, much and at the same time very little remains of that monstrously gifted and vaguely boastful boy. His straw-blond hair, the imperturbable ease with which he could scale any wall, the hypnotic mastery evident in a virtuosity of the highest profile in artfully shaping the many threads of narration, and of dramaturgy.
But, in the meantime, Malofeev is also something else by himself. A musician who survived his rise, careful not to be swallowed, as others have been, by the demon of his own fate; engaged, at the age of 21, in the midst of an all-encompassing reflection, stretched over dimensions that go far beyond art. A brave artist exuding inventiveness, imagination, daring, and disenchanted poetry. On the bill, in a truly unique programme, he was meant to have shared the evening with Arcadi Volodos – in turn an enlightened former tightrope walker and today on his way to a wise, praised, almost ascetic pianism. Following the cancellation of the latter, the space remained entirely for the young Russian, the last pearl of Sergei Dorensky’s amazing class, from which some of the protagonists of the music scene of the last decades have emerged: Lugansky, Matsuev, Kolesnikov, and Tchaidze.
An evening that Malofeev arranged in the name of choices that the artist had already made: the curtain was raised with an exponential Bach, in the cube, arranged by Vivaldi and transcribed by Feinberg, and lowered to the notes of Tannhaüser’s Overture. Contaminations, passages from hand to hand, music as a torrent impossible to capture, eternally alive, aggregating and each time a bearer of differences and of perspectives. Vivaldi’s Concerto for organ, in this play on refractions, shone sumptuously in the three-dimensional superimposition of sound planes, in the airy, dilated breath of a distant Venice seen in backlight; and likewise, the priestly composure of the Wagnerian chorale (Andante maestoso, literally) advanced, symphonic, flamboyant: enveloped but never obscured by the whirlwind of the orgiastic instrumental explosion impressed by Liszt.
Between these two extremes (which enchanted the clamour, the onomatopoeia, and the echoes of the third Bachian movement, after the desolate introspection of the central Adagio), even the last possible reservations were dissolved by the poignant Scriabin of two pages for only one left hand, a left hand inhabited by entire worlds. A slightly blurred sound in the pronunciation, not yet fully speaking, with little identity. But at the moment Malofeev seems, more than by the aesthetics of things, literally possessed by the urgency of restoring their meaning, the soul: Chopin’s Sonata op.35, after a pretentious debut, with an (apparently) extravagant agogic that we struggled to fully follow, he fully unveiled the world of this extraordinary talent. Slowly, after an almost Kunderian Scherzo, a slap at the expectations in his lopsided gait, in his sometimes hesitant, irregular step, the huge weight of a Funeral March emerged that we will struggle to forget. Stripped of all heroism, all apology. By subtraction, with a hinting glance but glimpses of the internal voices, it flowers far away among a desert of stones. A dull, discouraged world, without tears as no one witnesses this leaving, followed with a single glance into the tragic, inexorable spectacle of its passage before us, until its dissolution. A crude and offloaded realism, worthy of the Mussorgsky’s Bydlo and, closer to us, of the unspeakable pages that history is writing with blood. At the end of this procession – which already started to meet the Mahlerian one, in the thick of the woods – there is no change of pedal: away, inside the whirlwind of the last movement, the page, if possible, is higher among the evening’s already memorable ones. A frozen, stunned world, on which the sense of the end, of the hopeless emptiness, of the inescapable, hovered. A world to which, in retrospect, Weinberg seemed to look in his fourth Sonata, a dazzling tangle of bitterness, loneliness, and disenchantment punctuated by klezmer echoes and more generally popular, sincere, intimate tributes to a land to which, at the age of 21, Malofeev looks with love and an intimate sense of laceration. At the end of the concert, to thank the applause of a fiery Parvis, there were three encores, to complete the journey in the Russian world: a page of the beloved Medtner, the Toccata op.11 by Prokofiev and, to seal the performance, the Passo a due from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.
By Elide Bergamaschi, 07.08.2023