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CHAMBER REVIEW

Dmitry Rachmanov playing in Forsyth Hall

VIGOR AND PIZZAZZ

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Russian pianist Dmitry Rachmanov is a careful and attentive player with ample power when needed, and he brought these qualities to a Super Bowl-day audience Feb. 1 at SRJC’s Forsyth Hall. Though the repertoire was a little conventional, the performances were probing and memorable.

In several ways the opening work, Beethoven’s Variations in F, Op. 34, was the most finished presentation of the afternoon, the fifth recital in the current Concerts Grand season. All was in place – rhythmic control, subtle dynamics, and clear articulation. Each of these variations has an individual personality, elegantly brought out by the pianist. It was a rarely programmed piece played marvelously.

The afternoon’s cornerstone work, Schubert’s “Wanderer” Fantasie, D. 760, received all of Rachmanov’s pianistic artistry without being wholly successful. Make no mistake, the powerful momentum and drama needed in this work (which Schubert reportedly couldn’t play) were in place. What was missing was the comprehensive whole, the polish which Rachmanov lavished several years ago on works by Schumann and the Russian composer Nikolai Medtner in a Marin recital. Rachmanov had everything in hand with Schubert’s forward-looking work, including a secure octave technique, consummate phrasing and stamina to burn. After the recital the artist mentioned that it was only the second time he had ever played the great Fantasie in public, and pieces of that magnitude take time to gel. He has his arms around the Schubert, but it needs more refinement.

Following intermission two works were offered: Stravinsky’s Sonata from 1924 and the “Le Tombeau de Couperin” of Ravel. Stravinsky's thin-textured Sonata is in a Baroque style, though the Adagietto is florid and warm. Rachmanov’s playing here had solid rhythmic control and just the right amount of “detache” finger staccato. In the Ravel, the captivating and gentle outdoor-sounding Fugue in the final storm of the Toccata brought the small audience to its feet. The six pieces of “Le Tombeau” are Ravel’s homage to the 18th century and, like the Schubert, were played with urgency, if without the last measure of polish. The Rigaudon had the right dose of vigor and pizzazz, and the Minuet spotlighted the lyricism of the upper registers.

No encores were given, but Rachmanov enjoyed the acclaim and commentary of the piano cognoscenti after a recital filled with ardent and noble music.

The reviewer is the Producer of the Concerts Grand series.