by Peter Feher
When the first notes sounded in Mixon Hall on August 7, the star of the afternoon’s program was nowhere to be seen. Stanislav Khristenko would only sneak onstage after the fourth movement of Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet had already started. It was a playfully modest entrance — that is, until he took up the theme in this sparkling set of variations for piano and strings.
Then, you heard all the qualities that make for a stunning soloist. Winner of the 2013 Cleveland International Piano Competition, Khristenko was back in town this month for a recital in Piano Cleveland’s summer series, Piano Days @CLE. And he couldn’t help but revel in the spotlight a little, even as he settled into a more collaborative role at the keyboard for his program, “Stanislav and Friends.”
Variety was the artistic aim here. Sunday’s recital showcased excerpts from favorite chamber works rather than pieces in full, allowing Khristenko to cover plenty of musical ground with his colleagues.
The opening Schubert selection suggested the shifting nature of collaboration, and the idea had taken root by the program’s end. A final piece for piano and strings, the fourth movement from Louise Farrenc’s Quintet in a, Op. 30, had the players partnering off in rapid-fire duos and trios, mini episodes within this larger work as it wound to a close. Violinist Madalyn Parnas Möller, violist Yael Senamaud-Cohen, cellist Khari Joyner, and bassist Henry Samuels were the versatile quartet that was always rearranging itself.
In smaller combinations, there was even more stylistic variety to be found. Ethereal string playing was the perfect complement to Khristenko’s impressionistic wash of notes in the first movement of Maurice Ravel’s Piano Trio. A different instrumentation captured the folksy character of the Moderato from Aram Khachaturian’s Trio in g, beginning with clarinetist Nicole Martin, who introduced the lilting melody soon taken up by piano and violin.
Khristenko was happy to defer to his fellow performers where appropriate. Soprano Victoria Bowers wasn’t the only solo strong voice for her numbers, each of which featured a prominent instrumental line, too. Schubert’s The Shepherd on the Rock paired her with Martin on clarinet, and André Previn’s “Mercy” and “Shelter” (from Four Songs) allowed the singer to shine opposite Joyner on cello — all while Khristenko provided sensitive accompaniment.
Still, the pianist was itching to break out with his own virtuoso part, and the opportunity finally came near the recital’s end. He set the tango groove for Astor Piazzolla’s “Winter” (from The Four Season of Buenos Aires) before launching into a cadenza that was pure concerto soloist. He then worked up his fellow players for the lighting-quick passages of 16th notes in the “Rondo alla Zingarese” from Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 in g, Op. 25.
And by the end of the program, it somehow all fit together. Everyone returned to the stage for an encore, Albioni’s Adagio in g, arranged for the idiosyncratic septet of soprano, clarinet, strings, and piano — a combination only Khristenko could pull off.
Published on ClevelandClassical.com August 31, 2022.
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