First Laureate Pianist Pavel Kolesnikov Live at Honens 2012: CD review by Stanley Fefferman

Pavel Kolesnikov, a Russian pianist in his early twenties, is the 2012 winner of Canada’s Honens International Piano Competition. The world’s richest purse ($100,000 cash) includes three-year, world-wide recital/recording contracts (with Hyperion) worth roughly $500,000.

The two-CD set is entitled Pavel Kolesnikov Live at Honens 2012. Disc 1 is an hour-long recital of solo piano music. Kolesnikov’s Moonlight Sonata is a surprise: it gives Beethoven the lightness and charm of Chopin. Where there is fire, it is tinged with a sinewy delicacy.

Kolesnikov’s Schumann is the attention-getter on this disc. Kinderszenen has a rosy- cheeked wholesomeness about it. The lyrical passages literally sing. Schumann affords Kolesnikov the opportunity to join his intense lyricism to a wide emotional range. That old chestnut “Traumerei” is unusually thoughtful, while still displaying a delicate liveliness.

Kolesnikov is undaunted by the demands of the  Chopin B minor Sonata No. 3, though he seemed to me a bit forceful from the start, sounding ‘like the others.’ However, Kolesnikov recovers his unique voice and musicality in the largo.

The second disc reflects Honen’s insistence on collaboration and includes Kolesnikov’s final round-winning piano concerto—the Tchaikovsky No. 1 with the Calgary Philharmonic, and a cello sonata (the 2nd Mendelssohn, Op. 58, with Johannes Moser).

In the Tchaikovsky, Kolesnikov demonstrates his magisterial chops in abundance, invoking the spirit of Beethoven in his playing of the first theme. Generally, his style is simple and clean. During choice moments, such as the sylvan loveliness of the second theme, Kolesnikov brings back the  piano’s light-handed singing voice in a magical way.  The Mendelssohn sparkles. Moser is an excellent cellist whom Kolesnikov syncs with and everything flows naturally.

You can feel at home with all the music on these discs.


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