Sunday, November 8, 2009

NGA - Yakov Kasman - Bach, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Schumann & Stravinsky - 11/08/09

Bach: "Largo" from Sonata for Organ in C Major, BWV 529
Tchaikovsky: From The Seasons, Op. 37 - February (Carnival), May (Starlit Nights) & August (Harvest)
Prokofiev: Sonata No 2 in D Minor, Op. 14
Schumann: Humoreske, Op. 20
Stravinsky: Trois mouvements de Petrouchka - Danse Russe, Chez Petrouchka & La semaine grasse

To conclude this Eastern European-flavored week, the National Gallery of Art presented Russian native pianist Yakov Kasman in a Russian-centric recital featuring Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Stravinsky alongside Bach and Schumann. It was not as crowded to the brims as last week for Viennese Till Fellner, but the line was still impressive enough to prove the popularity of the soloist and the program. Besides, how best to end a incredibly warm and sunny fall weekend than with a piano recital in a lush garden?

The first work had quite an unusual background as Bach took the three instruments normally associated with a Baroque trio sonata and had the organ handle them all. The movement performed for us was the “Largo” from Bach’s Sonata for Organ in C Major, BWV 529, which had been transcribed into a piano solo piece by Russian piano virtuoso and composer Samuel Feinberg, one of the most knowledgeable interpreters of Bach. It was very engaging self-contained prologue and asserted Yakov Kasman’s seemingly effortless mastery of his instrument.
Next in line was Tchaikovsky with three of the 12 short pieces he had written for each month of the year. I had never heard of them before, but quickly fell under the spell of the exuberant festivities of Mardi Gras in February, nature's irresistible rebirth in May and the endless summer fun in August. These three parts of a whole were spiritedly contrasted from one another while still being united in their melodic power.
After easy-on-the-ears Tchaikovksy it was time for Prokofiev's much more personal style, which was vividly displayed in a wild ride happily mixing traditionalism and modernism. This stimulating cocktail was expertly stirred by Yasman who smartly negotiated all the twists and turns of the whole work.
Referring to temperament and not light-heartedness, Schumann's Humoreske smartly evoked a full range of various moods that were changing rapidly and seamlessly. This festival of human emotions was totally engaging and a lot of fun too.
Based on his Petrouchka ballet score, Stravinsky's three transcriptions for the piano were in no means just cute little asides. They were independent works designed to stand on their own, and Kasman made sure that they brilliantly did just that, therefore ending this enchanting concert with virtuosic sparks.

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