Review: Darkness and joy contrast at festival closing

A review of last week's Shostakovich at Lake Champlain Festival.

Pianist Ignat Solzhenitsyn, violinist Frautschi and cellist Sherry delivered the work’s [Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 1] youthful spirit with virtuosity and flair. Frautschi played with a focused sound and a natural lyrical expressiveness, balanced by Sherry’s earthier expressiveness. Solzhenitsyn, Russian-born and Vermont-bred, now playing and conducting around the world, delivered the appropriate brilliance with clarity. It was a joyful performance.
— Jim Lowe, Times Argus

Preview: Solzhenitsyn explores 'creative journey' at festival

Another preview of Lake Champlain next week.

“I think that each person has ideas or aspects or circumstances, if you will, in his art that he gravitates to at an early age,” Ignat Solzhenitsyn said last week in a phone conversation from New York City. “Perhaps they keep coming back to the same methods with different tools and see if they can probe deeper or that much more effectively.”

Preview: Salt Bay Chamberfest Full of Star Power

Allann Kozinn writing about the Salt Bay Chamberfest, where I perform next week.

Driving through this small, attractive town and its scenic outskirts on the way to the opening concert of the Salt Bay Chamberfest at Darrows Barn on Tuesday evening, it’s clear what draws so many musicians from around the country to Maine every summer. Though the festivals these musicians have built around their summer idylls generally have impressive rosters, for sheer star power it’s hard to beat Salt Bay, now in its 22nd season.

Among the featured players this summer are the Brentano String Quartet, violinists Jennifer Koh and Jennifer Frautschi, cellist Peter Wiley – long a member of the Beaux Arts Trio and the Guarneri String Quartet – and Ignat Solzhenitsyn, an extraordinary pianist and conductor, and also the son of the Soviet dissident writer Aleksandr Solzhentisyn, about whom he will be giving a talk at the festival on Sunday.
— Allann Kozinn, Portland Press Herald

Review: Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet Crowns a Challenging Season with Consummate Quality

Another review of the Drozdov and Shostakovich Quintets, which I played recently with the Aizuri Quartet. 

A performance that held the darker aspects of the slower movements and the almost Schubertian grace of the finale in ideal balance, while doing justice also to the aggressive devilry of the scherzo. Ignat Solzhenitsyn provided the kernel of the interpretation, by turns forceful without harshness and limpid without triviality. He was partnered with comparable artistry and skill by the Aizuri Quartet.
— Bernard Jacobson, Seen and Heard International

Review: Two quintets with Haydn in the middle

A review of the Drozdov and Shostakovich Quintets, which I played last week in Philadelphia with the Aizuri Quartet. 

The novelty of the program was Anatoly Drozdov’s 1920 Quintet. Drozdov (1883-1950), a pianist whose compositions heavily feature his instrument, was a close contemporary of Nikolai Myaskovsky, who’s not exactly a household name either, although his 10th Symphony was performed at this year’s Philadelphia Orchestra concerts.

Both men, along with the elder statesman Alexander Glazunov, helped keep the flame of Russian music alive in the difficult days after the 1917 Revolution, when its chief luminaries—Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, and Prokofiev—either emigrated or remained abroad (Prokofiev returned to stay after 1933, lured by homesickness rather than Bolshevism).

Like his mentor Alexander Scriabin, Drozdov experimented with a musical chromaticism that pushed the bounds of tonality without ever quite abandoning them. His Piano Quintet, a 25-minute work in one movement, is among his more substantial compositions. By turns brooding, dreamy, and agitated, it is unlikely to achieve repertory status, but it is a serious work and proved well worth hearing.
— Robert Zaller, Broad Street Review

Preview: "Classical music page-turners turn the page into the modern era"

Peter Dobrin in the Philadelphia Inquirer with a piece on page-turning, in which I say that

Today, page-turning - and it is a role I have performed countless times myself! - is an unwelcome anachronism, putting the pianist constantly on the defensive against potential catastrophe, so that his mind is bent more toward the person to his left than the people to his right.

Mr. Dobrin also has a thought-provoking interview on this general subject with violinist Nicholas Kitchen of the Borromeo Quartet, and a very funny sidebar on his own recent page-turning adventure.

Review: Two Views of Mendelssohn’s Symphonic Scotland

Another review of my Philadelphia performances of Bartok and Mendelssohn.

[Ignat Solzhenitsyn’s] qualities of technical precision, impassioned eloquence, and profound stylistic insight were already familiar.

I have always loved the “Scottish” Symphony, but it was Solzhenitsyn’s performance that made me realize more vividly than ever before quite what a towering masterpiece it is.

The revelation Solzhenitsyn provided was a direct product of the risks he took. In contrast to Wagner, Mendelssohn was noted as a conductor for his tendency to set fast tempos. That predilection is reflected in his metronome marks for this symphony, especially in the scherzo. It was Solzhenitsyn’s characteristic distaste for any kind of artistic compromise that dictated the devil-may-care exhilaration he brought to that movement, abetted by Doris Hall-Gulati’s brilliantly feather-light clarinet solos. Comparable passages elsewhere in the work were equally thrilling, while the slow third movement,  though in no sense hurried, was done with a consuming sense of irresistible forward motion.
— Bernard Jacobson, Seen and Heard International

Review: Chamber Orchestra of Phila. Balances Contemplative Bartok, Flawless Mendelssohn

Philadelphia Inquirer review of Bartok Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta and Mendelssohn Symphony No. 3, which I conducted a few days ago in Philadelphia. 

You could have guessed that conductor laureate Ignat Solzhenitsyn was behind Sunday’s performance: He’s the kind of serious musician who will take on something this formidable and get the rehearsal time to pull it off. His chamber music appearances here mean he’s never away for long, but Solzhenitsyn emerges as a key part of the Chamber Orchestra’s season, maintaining a classical foundation as music director Dirk Brossé explores populist realms.

The piece can seem rather cerebral. But the first movement served notice that this performance would be an exception. Some conductors begin so softly as to be barely audible. Not here. The movement’s long-built climax, which can seem like a feat of compositional technique, became an existential crisis. Later movements had similarly imaginative strokes.
— David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer