A Bad Night for Dmitri Alexeev?

Concert pianists often continue performing into old age, so long as their fingers remain supple and their ears sharp, and do so with the increased insight into the music and understanding of the composer’s intent which comes with long familiarity.

It was therefore with regret that I heard Dmitri Alexeev’s performance at Meany Theater Tuesday night.

Now in his early 60s, which should be his musical prime, Alexeev did justice to only one composer, Prokofiev. His performance of the Four Pieces for piano, Op. 32 was quirky and light, sharply delineated, completely assured and totally successful.

Would that he has brought the same perceptiveness to the Schumann and Chopin works which took up the remainder of the program.

In the past he has received enthusiastic plaudits for his lyricism, and the nuances and dynamics of his playing, but these were absent Tuesday.

His Schumann often sounded bewildering. In “Blumenstueck” with which he opened the program, his sense of rubato-the stretching of tempo and pausing after notes which correlates to the ebb and flow of speech-seemed more to halt the flow, rather than further the the phrases. In “Kreisleriana,” soft, slower passages had his old hallmarks, the delicate touch, fine shaping. The fast sections were musically disastrous. They sounded like a technically gifted teen trying to impress with how fast and loud the music could be played with no regards for the music’s mood. Phrasing was non-existent. The dynamics ranged between loud and louder. Alexeev’s left hand rose and crashed down on the piano, the right was steely-fingered, and in dense passages there were too many blurred, missed or wrong notes.

His Chopin was no better.  In the Rondo, Op. 1, parts were light and crisp, but clusters of fast notes sounded a little labored, and messy, while notes in the top register were steely to the point of ugliness, every time.

Four mazurkas had little dance to them, again with inappropriate rubato and hesitations which felt wrong in their locations. Alexeev played the daylights out of the lovely Nocturne in A-flat Major and Polonaise in the same key .

Most mature musicians take cognizance of the composer and his intent. Chopin played in small venues, on a light Pleyel piano. While his technique was amazing, his compositions scintillating, often brilliant, he was a superb, refined musician, not a bombastic performer.

Alexeev’s performance was loud, messy, almost crude at times. Except in the Prokofiev, where was the poetry, where was the music?

What a shame.

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